I love the season of Advent, and I am sympathetic with those who try to make room in their busy lives to give this short season some semblance of recognition and practice. Advent has become something of a “Cinderella” season. It gets squeezed out of contemporary life by the big sisters of commercial and social activity that arrive long before the 25th of December. Advent is supposed to be a season of focus and contemplation–of waiting in hope for the renewal of our faith.
Father Gregory Fruehwirth, a monk of the Anglican Order of Julian of Norwich, writes:
The first week of Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in Christ. It is a time of darkness, of hidden pregnancy, of waiting. The seed of the kingdom of God, the seed that will germinate at Christmas, sprout in Epiphany, grow through Lent, blossom at Easter, and bear its seven-fold fruit at Pentecost, is sown in the dark soil of Advent. The new life of God is already within us, even though we may see, feel, and understand nothing. Patience and faith are called for.
The season begins with John the Baptist, warnings about the end of time, the eventual disintegration of creation, and the nearing Day of Judgment. It ends with the joyful promise of new creation and the awakening of transcendent life in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a season that calls us to a time of quiet waiting, of margin, of contemplation. In order for such contemplative presence to be ours, we would do well to intentionally eliminate some of our more routine media-saturated moments in the day and convert them to moments of solitude and silence.
I have long advocated the practice of “Advent Walks,” just before the day ends. The diffused twilight from the sky, when the sun is below the western horizon, gently gives way to a brisk and gentle darkness. The lights of the neighborhood are blinking on and the scent of dry burning oak fills the night sky, like a waft of incense adding mystery to nature’s daily evening liturgy. The opening verse of the 9th century Latin chant, memorized from seminary days comes readily to mind, Creátor alme síderum, “Creator of the stars of night, your people’s everlasting light, O Christ redeemer of us all, we pray you hear us when we call.”
Advent will move too swiftly over the days of December. Enter it quickly!