“A voice proclaims
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)
How can this one be different from prior Advents? Will I succumb to the frenetic pace that obstructs my capacity to immerse myself in the prelude to the ultimate waiting season, life itself? Is not life itself one massively ultimate preparation for the coming of Christ? Will I be ready? Am I doing enough to ready my loved ones? Will my loved ones be ready even when my efforts fail? When I get to that point where Christ is coming to me, what will I say for myself? Will I have to give a defense of my choices or did my choices do just enough to overlap somewhere near God’s will? How do I do all this when there are choices made by others for me, choices that I do not understand?
If Advent is about waiting, then what are we all waiting for?
I know Christmas is there, and it means something, but that meaning can be elusive for us in times such as these. We are told ceaselessly that unless we take such and such action, we cannot do what we are made to do for and with our loved ones. We are told that Christmas won’t be the same this year because our lives are all threatened by some looming contagion that will never go away.
And there is all the pain that we feel on the inside - those quiet places we would rather no one know about. Alienation from self. Alienation from others. Alienation from God.
How can I enter this Advent with such strong realities dragging me away from silence, peace, and joy?
It was then that I came across the writings of Fr. Alfred Delp, a priest and martyr who refused Nazism and was imprisoned before his execution at the hands of an ideologically driven totalitarian regime that sought to destroy the very meaning of human existence (Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944, Fr. Alfred Delp).
I thought to myself, 'Well, if there was anyone who has anything relevant to say about how to live out the Advent season, then a priest who suffered under the most destructive ideology in modern history is worth reading.' He had only one thing to wait for, and that was Christ. Perhaps his circumstances dictated that, but the raw truth of his thoughts reveal an intimate awareness of human nature and all those precarious elements - self inflicted and imposed from another - that leave us numb in our experience. And we should never be numb. In his words, we should be shaken.
Fr. Delp remarks: “The terror of this time would not be bearable - any more than the terror brought on by our world situation, if we comprehend it - except for the knowledge that continually encourages us and sets us straight. It is the knowledge of the promises that are being spoken right in the middle of terror that are valid.”
After all, “The shaking, the awakening, with these, life merely begins to become capable of Advent. It is precisely in the severity of this awakening , in the helplessness of coming to consciousness, in the wretchedness of experiencing our limitations that the golden threads running between Heaven and earth during this season reach us; the threads that give the world a hint of the abundance to which it is called, the abundance of which it is capable.”
What is to be the source of hope in the dark season of Advent?
“This should be our first Advent light: to understand everything, all that happens to us and all that threatens us, from the perspective of life’s character of waiting. We must endure the blessedness and the un-blessedness of waiting because we are under way. The character of life is to keep going, to keep a lookout, and to endure until the vigilant heart of man and the heart of God who meets us come together; presently in the true interior meeting in the sacraments and, later, in the final homecoming.”
Waiting isn’t so bad. It conditions the heart to receive what it was created for - the ultimate homecoming.
We often refer to the “long-game” here at Mount Royal Academy. Forming children to become saints is not for the faint of heart. Waiting for children to hear and embrace God’s voice is no easy task for a parent. Much like what Fr. Delp insinuates, we need to keep going, to keep looking out, and then let our hearts suffer the anguish of waiting.
Where can we find hope to wait? From each other.
“Once again, let us kneel down and pray for keen eyes capable of seeing God’s messengers of annunciation, for vigilant hearts wise enough to perceive the words of the promise. The world is more than its burden, and life is more than the sum of its gray days. The golden threads of the genuine reality are already shining through everywhere. Let us know this, and let us, ourselves, be comforting messengers. Hope grows through the one who is himself a person of the hope and the promise.”
This Advent, let us be a people of hope! If we can just be that to each other, we can make it through whatever circumstances come our way as we wait for the coming of Christ in the now and the future to follow.
- Derek Tremblay, Headmaster