What we are to do is this: stop, take a deep breath, and create just a little bit of quiet in order to reflect on what the Season of Advent is really about: preparation for the coming of Jesus into our world. A place to begin is with the readings for this Sunday with a mind and heart open to the message of God. These readings are actually very hopeful and not bleak at all. The first reading is from the Book of Jeremiah in which God reminded His people that He would fulfill the promise He made to the divided nation, Israel and Judah. He said the Messiah would come and that “Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” (Jer. 33:16) These words were addressed to a suffering nation which had been overtaken by its enemies due to their own complacency. God had never ceased loving them, and upon seeing their repentance, He reminded them that nothing had changed in His relationship to them nor had His love diminished. His promises are always good. Hence, His words were of hope to the people as things looked pretty desolate for them. Let us allow these words to be spoken to us: “You shall be safe and you shall dwell secure.”
Therefore, instead of thinking of these times as being bleak we need to think of the present as being pregnant. Bleakness points to lifelessness while pregnancy is full of life; bleakness is without much hope, while pregnancy is alive with possibility and hope. In no way am I denying the suffering of this age, or the dangers or threats from those who would do us harm for no reason that makes any sense. But the world is filled with opportunities for love to be born into it. The time is pregnant with needs which can be filled, love which can be shared, lives which can be touched, and hearts that can be healed. The world is pregnant with possibilities for us to be Christ-bearers like Mary, the mother of Jesus: we can pray for others and for reparation of sin, point people to Jesus through our words and deeds; we can live the beatitudes to touch the hearts of the lonely, ill, marginalized, downtrodden, stranger, and those who live lifestyles far from God.
©Michele L. Catanese
* The poem In the bleak midwinter by Christina Rossetti can be found at the following link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238450
The top photo is mine: it was taken in the bleak midwinter at Lost Maples State Park, TX.
The second photo is also one of mine: it was taken on Copper Mountain in Colorado. I chose it because there is a house on the far right of the photo to represent 'dwelling secure.'
Next is an Advent wreath, which of course is to remind us that we are in the new liturgical year, Advent week 1.
Next is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Mother of Holy Hope. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-holy-hope-263-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
Next is another of my photos. This lone bluebonnet was taken in Big Bend National Park, TX. I chose it because it spoke to me of hope since this flower was growing and seeming to flourish in the middle of the desert sand against all odds.
The last icon is also by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is called Nuestra Senora De Las Nieves. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/nuestra-senora-de-las-nieves-185-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
I chose both icons of Mary for this post because in both she is pregnant. In the first one she is reflecting upon the Word and is filled with hope. In this one she is also reflective and clearly at prayer. The midwinter seems alive with possibility since the presence of God is at hand.
Remember, the icons are copyrighted material, used with permission. If you would like to purchase copies of these icons, cards, plaques or any other format of the work of Fr. Bill McNichols, go to his website either through the links above or at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/ or