The world continues its rush toward commercialization and materialism. It’s the glut with which we are all familiar: Christmas, according to secularist views, begins the day after Halloween now and involves all that glitters.
Where does that leave those of us who are parched for the Living and Triune God? It’s one thing to acknowledge that we don’t have to participate in the world’s celebration of the holidays, but it’s altogether another when we put it into practice.
This year, I’d like to invite you to focus on one commitment as we begin another liturgical year: prayer. I have selected four weekly Advent themes below, along with a brief reflection, to breathe new life into how we think about prayer and how we can move through the short season in simple but practical ways.
First Week: Silence
“The silence of the crib, the silence of Nazareth, the silence of the Cross, and the silence of the sealed tomb are one. The silences of Jesus are silences of poverty, humility, self-sacrifice, and abasement; it is the bottomless abyss of his kenosis, his self-emptying.”Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, 100.
We begin with silence, because God exists there. He speaks to us in the quiet moments, in the recesses of our hearts. All around us, and perhaps even within us, we encounter chaos and confusion. Advent beckons us to listen, to return to the Source of all we are and all we have.
When we take this week to meditate in silence and upon the silence of Nazareth through Calvary, we will learn a great deal about who we are meant to become – without pretense or fanfare, without verbosity or busyness. The invitation this week is of self-emptying as an offering to the Christ-Child we will welcome anew into our hearts and lives soon.
Second Week: Hope
“If you seek a spark, you will find it in the ashes.”—Elie Wiesel, quoted in Miriam Greenspan, Healing Through the Dark Emotions, 156.
If we look to the world, we will be filled with its hopelessness. Even for those of us who try to remain faithful to God, it is not unusual to find ourselves feeling discouraged and emotionally deflated. Where do we find our hope in such dark times? Our lives are filled with uncertainties and upheaval.
We discover the light in that tiny spark of hope by digging for it relentlessly in the daily mess. All that is lost and burnt out – the ashes – still carry something new, a way out or a way in, a promise. That is the gift of Advent, that we await the promises that arise out of the ashes.
Third Week: Peace
“Give us peace with Thee, peace with men, peace with ourselves. And free us from all fear.”Dag Hammarskjold
If we truly want to acquire interior peace, we must begin with freeing ourselves from all attachments to that which leads us away from God. The tiny infant Jesus who saved us, first by choosing to be born a human, is the only One to whom we should turn when we are crippled by fear and consumed with worry.
When we are free from fear, there is space within us to be at peace with whatever transpires in our lives. And we need not have answers, only tranquility to live with and in the midst of the questions.
Fourth Week: Joy
“Two of the greatest joys experienced are the joy of being different from others and the joy of being the same as others.”Henri Nouwen, Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring, 21.
As we near the end of preparing for our Savior’s birth, the anticipation of welcoming Him grows each day. We learn that every ending bears upon it something new. Often, it is the old thing that takes on a new form. But sometimes, even in any sort of loss or death, God surprises us. Perhaps this Christmas, God wishes to surprise you with an unexpected blessing or answered prayer.
Rejoice that your life is yours alone, yet you are still One with Him and His Mystical Body, the Church.