The liturgical year, in union with creation, often shows us what we need most throughout the year. We begin Advent and the new liturgical year in late fall. It is a time when those of us in the northern hemisphere experience stillness, quiet, and a sense of waiting in creation.
The trees are bare and have shed their autumnal splendor. They now stand dormant, waiting for spring. The flowers are no longer blooming. The bird song is is much softer and only heard on occasion. Many animals have gone into hibernation for a “long winter’s nap.” The earth has entered into a period of waiting and expectancy. Even the long darkness of night that grows until the Winter Solstice points to a waiting upon the dawn.
During Advent, the Church is inviting us into a period of stillness, quiet, and peace as we wait on the comings of Christ both in the Parousia and as the Messiah at Christmas. Even though we are a redeemed people, we still wait upon the Lord and His triumphant return at the end of time, which could happen at any hour. Paragraph 678 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that His Second Coming is viewed as “imminent.”
We are to prepare for His coming through leading holy lives and growing in love and communion with the Most Holy Trinity and one another. All of us are also preparing to celebrate the great feast of Christmas when the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took on human flesh and dwelt among us, but there are also other ways we are waiting on the Lord right now.
Perhaps we have lost a job, are waiting for medical test results, need a new house, are waiting for a broken relationship to heal, a child to return to the Faith, or we are seeking God’s mission for our lives. All of us experience waiting throughout the year, but it is more prevalent to us in this season of waiting. In order to enter more deeply in this waiting we need periods of silence and stillness. Both are in short supply during the busy days of the secular Christmas season, but it is precisely in this busyness that the Church and creation call us to be still and to wait upon the Lord.
Stillness and Silence
Stillness, and by extension, silence are very difficult for us in the modern world. Noise is everywhere. It is something we are constantly surrounded by in a technological age.
Our phones, computers, televisions, and other forms of technology are always vying for our attention, even when we are in the middle of conversations with people who are physically present to us. We cannot be still long enough to carry on a needed conversation with a loved one, let alone pray. All of this noise and distraction drains us physically, mentally, and spiritually and it damages our relationships with those people who are closest to us.
The solution is to enter into the deep rhythms of the Church and of creation. To seek silence and stillness alone with God, even if we have to get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later. When we allow God’s stillness to enter into the depths of our souls, we are able to be more fully present to others and in our daily lives. We are able to prepare ourselves for the comings of Christ and to grow in love from that still point within us. If we don’t take the time to be still then we cannot fully come to know God and to allow His Divine Life to pour into us and we cannot grow in love of others. We have to be still in order to hear Him more clearly.
It is in stillness that we are able to come to know, rely, and trust God more fully. He exhorts us in Psalm 46 to, “Be still and know that I am God!” If we spend our days moving from task to task in rapid succession then we will fail to rest in God as needed. We become stressed out, frazzled, exhausted, and burned out. This not only impacts us spiritually, it impacts and harms our relationships with the people around us.
Stillness is an indispensable aspect of the spiritual life. Spending much needed time in the quiet stillness of being in the presence of God in prayer is how we come to make more prudent decisions, to love and see others more fully, and to live our lives centered on God.
The Opportunity of Advent
The Advent season is the much needed opportunity that God extends to us through His Church and creation to enter into stillness. It is in that peace and place of rest that we can prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating the coming of the Messiah at Christmas. It is from this stillness that we can continue to prepare ourselves for His triumphant return at the end of time.
As busy as this time of year is for all of us, we need to make a concerted effort to spend time in stillness each day through prayer. We may only have 10 minutes, but it will change how we encounter God at Christmas and how we encounter the people around us. By seeking God in the depths of our soul, we will be able to move outwards in love towards others from a place of rest and peace that can only come from God.
Advent is not only a liturgical season that prepares us for the comings of Christ in salvation history. It is an invitation to spend time in silence and stillness preparing for the coming of Christ in our daily lives, so that we can become more fully conformed to Him. It is in stillness that we learn to wait upon Him and come to trust Him more fully with every aspect of our lives. It is in stillness that we come to know and accept His great love for us.
It is stillness and silence that will prepare us to come to the manger of Our Lord with great joy come Christmas.