Every year we either hear the phrase “Advent waiting” or we are reminded that in Advent we await the coming of Jesus during these four weeks. It is true, we are waiting. We think of waiting as being about passivity, but paradoxically it plays out as quite the opposite: we are in such a hurry to get all the details managed in preparation for Christmas that we are going at break-neck speeds. There is nothing passive about that at all, yet all the imagery we use in this season is about calmness and stillness. We sing hymns about silent nights and starry skies, open hearts waiting to be filled with the wonderful coming of the baby Jesus in a bucolic manger scene: nary a sound but the lowing, (whatever that is), of a cow.
Why would he bend low to come to earth which is populated with people who are so sinful and broken? How could the perfect God who is glorious beyond anything we can imagine, become limited to an imperfect human body? It is incredibly moving to think of how He could be born to a human mother into a human family. This is the God of All the Universe, the God of Creation, who we are talking about. This is the only one true God, who is mighty beyond comprehension: the Holy One of Israel, the God of Hosts, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and all the prophets. All that glory inside of a human baby who will grow so that we might know love as it truly is. As I said, if we really contemplated this, we would never leave our knees. But we do need to live our lives, so we have to take this mystery and this reality with us into the world.
This week we also begin the process of “counting down” to the glorious celebration of His birth with what are called the “O antiphons” which are sung or said before the reading of the weekday gospels. It begins on December 17 and finishes on December 24: “O Wisdom of our God Most High; O Leader of the House of Israel; O Root of Jesse’s stem, O sign of love for all His people; O Key of David; O King of all nations and keystone of the Church; O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice.” I suggest that we take the antiphon for each day and pray with it. It would be a great way to let the messages penetrate our hearts during our time of waiting. Another suggestion is to allow the preface prayers of the Mass to be part of our prayer, too. If we listen to how the Church prays, we certainly will get the message that Jesus wants for us to receive. (For where to find these, see below.)*
It is the quality of our waiting that needs to change if we are to really live Advent. You see, our waiting is not about passivity at all. It is about giving ourselves time to let the message become active in our hearts, minds, and souls. Waiting is about working to carve a space for the Word to dwell and to start doing that now. The season allows us to let that space grow in us so that when Christmas comes we already know something about what it means for us and our world, and for us to take action.
May we receive the message of this third week of Advent! May we open our hearts to true Advent waiting! May we learn to work with the distractions of this time of preparation, finding the message in the midst of it! May the joys and challenges of this time help us to remember for whom it is that we wait! And may we fall to our knees as we wait before the mystery of the King of Glory who comes, especially as we encounter Him in one another! Let us meet, on our knees, in the Heart of Jesus! Marana tha! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
*This is the Preface Prayer for Advent I: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english5/p03361.htm
Here is the Preface Prayer for Advent II: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english5/p03362.htm
You can find the daily and Sunday readings at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121414.cfm (This link is for the third Sunday in Advent, but on top of the page you can change the date to the current one.)
The icons are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is called Mother of God Waiting. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this it can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/mother-of-god-gallery/product/154-mother-of-god-waiting-in-adoration
The second icon is St. John the Forerunner (The Baptist). It can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/holy-men-icons/product/137-st-john-the-forerunner-the-baptist