"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Turn

The Christmas liturgy includes these beautiful verses from the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Wisdom: “For while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne….” The passage, brimming with the mystery of the Incarnation, is wonderfully expressive of the infinite stillness that hovered over Christ’s birth. For the greatest things are accomplished in silence -- not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice. Spiritual conception happens when the heart is quickened by love, and the free will stirs to action. The silent forces are the strong forces. Let us turn now to the stillest event of all, stillest because it came from the remoteness beyond the noise of any possible intrusion -- from God. (Romano Guardini, The Lord)

“This is the year,” I say to myself every November -- the year when I will work frantically all month so that the frenzied pace that is December will be evaded and the Advent for which I long will be possible.

Then the first Sunday of Advent arrives. I look at my list of things that need to be done in less than four weeks and I sigh, “Oh well, maybe next year.”

This year is no different. I had illusions of gifts bought and wrapped, cards addressed and mailed, and lists made -- all before Thanksgiving. My Advent days would be perfectly planned and I would spend the dark days of December fostering “quiet silence” in my home -- prayers around the Advent wreath, story time in the warm glow of the fireplace, an Advent playlist of songs that would turn our hearts to Bethlehem and our infant Lord.

Today is the First Sunday of Advent and I find my illusions evaporating in the clamor that is life. I just now sat down for the first time today. I am at my sister’s in Minnesota spending time with my nieces and nephew while my sister and her husband take a well-deserved break on the beaches of Cancun. The cousins are having a blast together -- Wii dance parties, hot tub time, fort building, and movies. But “quiet silence” isn’t exactly a phrase I would use to describe my day.

I find myself tempted to think, yet again, “I hate Advent.” It doesn’t seem fair -- all these things that need doing. And right now. Despite trying to fight the the-Christmas-season-starts-the-day-after-Thanksgiving-(if-not-sooner)-and-ends-on-December-25th-at-midnight cultural mentality, I find I’ve been sucked in. I need to find the perfect presents. At the perfect price. On the right day -- Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. I need to wrap those presents. And mail them in time to arrive by Christmas Eve. I need to design a card. Something clever. With a great family photo. And update the card list. And address the envelopes. And buy the stamps. And mail them in time to arrive by Christmas Eve. I need to bake twelve different kinds of cookies. And plan parties. And menus. And outings. All on a budget. 

Sigh. 

And then start hyperventilating.

The reality is I will never have the Advent for which I long if everything has to be perfect by the time that first purple candle is lit. And to sigh and give up before Advent even begins is to miss an opportunity -- an opportunity to quietly overcome that which is bombarding me from every side, an opportunity for hidden sacrifice, an opportunity to let my heart be quickened by love. I can’t control the “noise” all around me -- I can’t even avoid it. I have four children -- seven, this week. Most of the stores I regularly visit have been playing Christmas music for a month already. Christmas specials fill the television programming. There are radio stations dedicated to playing Christmas music from now until December 25 (when the Christmas season actually begins!). Hustle and bustle and "Christmas" are all around me.

But the “quiet silence” for which I long isn’t something external. It’s something I have to intentionally create in my heart. Intentionally create, and carefully guard. Whether I have seven loud children around me, or only four. Whether I’m in a store blaring Christmas music or at home alone being bombarded with the clamor of the lists shouting inside my head. Only then will I be able to foster that silence in my home and in my children. In the midst of the “superficial eventfulness” that our culture has made of the month of December, I must superimpose that “inner vision” of what I know Advent to be -- a turning “to the stillest event of all, stillest because it came from the remoteness beyond the noise of any possible intrusion -- from God.” 

Let us all turn to Him and find in Him the “quiet silence” within which we can hear His voice. God bless your turning this Advent.




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