Jer 33:14-16; Ps 25:4-10, 14; 1 Thes 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
November 28, 2021
The season of Advent comes along just as we are edging closer to the shortest (and hence darkest) day of the year. The liturgical season recognizes a natural and necessary time to withdraw a bit from the often too busy, noisy world and all the artificial lights. Before all the conveniences and distractions offered by electric lights and other modern developments, people naturally quieted down because it was dark and more conducive to listening to the inner promptiings and rumblings within us. Human beings need this slower, quieter time to reflect and contemplate on the previous year. Sometimes this might involve re-entering some of less pleasant feelings that require more time and spiritual space to process. Advent is a good time to grieve, but also to honor some of the more subtle gifts and blessings we have received. This pass year we have encountered countless people who have graciously served us in some capacity or blessed us with a particularly friendly demeanor. The fact that there is so much friendly and cooperative interaction in the world instead of chaos is proof of Divine providence. Not everywhere in the world do people enjoy such peace and relative safety.
This deeper awareness of our personal and communal worlds is an important aspect of prayer. Prayer is largely a state of being and a true awareness of God’s presence. As Catholics we know that God has indeed drawn us into His very presence. We call this the ‘indwelling LOVE of the Trinity.’ The Holy Spirit that we have received is the very Spirit of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You have probably already had several conversations about this over the past week or two. Right? (Gaze around slowly at the congregation). Likely this is not part of our daily conversation or awareness. This is why we need Advent. It’s not just a period of time; it’s a dimension.
Advent itself is sort of a paradox. We are essentially preparing for something, the birth of Jesus, that already happened 2000 years ago. If Jesus already came and as we celebrated last weekend He is King of the Universe, why this specific 5-week period of preparation. Well, the Church understands human nature and our propensity to make up our own world, priorities, rules, and order. All too often that produces results such as present day Ethiopia, Honduras, Afghanistan or the Congressional budget hearings in our own country. This does not seem like the ‘indwelling love of the Trinity’.
To pray well and to be conscious of which rules, from which king, we are actually following takes a deliberate reflection and honesty. This requires ‘praying from the heart’. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tell us:
CCC # 2562-63 According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain. The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
Wow, if this is true we could wonder if 5 weeks of Advent is going to be enough. If our prayers are in vain if our hearts are far from God and if praying from the heart requires a journey into our hidden center which is beyond the grasp of our reason and of others, what type of space do we need to create in our lives? Do we have time in our busy schedules and daily demands? If we don’t, then who is making up the rules in our lives? Last week the King of the Universe told us that His Kingdom is not of this world….. Then who IS our king? Gulp.
This year during Advent I’m offering an opportunity to consider more deliberately and specifically this Advent or ‘Jesus space’ in our lives. I have on order a small book of meditations entitled The Domestic Monastery, by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser which helps us apply some of the basic principles of the ancient Rule of Benedict to modern family life. Monasteries were set up to be a special space to which monks and nuns and visitors could withdraw to be in a more constant awareness of being in God’s Kingdom. Prayer is structured at regular intervals and everyone must show up. Usually monasteries are placed in an aesthetically beautiful setting but the buildings and living conditions are simple and deliberately uncluttered in order to avoid unnecessary distractions. It’s a deliberate space designed for the type of reflection, contemplation and prayer that the human psyche needs in order to avoid protracted periods of anxiety, depression and chaos.
Please sign up for the book discussions and let me know which days and times are most amenable to your schedules. Also, consider spending some quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration on Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:00 PM. I will also be available for confessions during that period just in case any of you have had a tendency to make up your own rules over the past few months. I’m also available to Confession by appointment; just leave a message on the office phone.
Today we will light the first Advent candle on our journey which will create more Divine light as we progress through this holy season. As we enter more fully into the Eucharistic celebration let’s now try to open ourselves more fully to this Divine space…..