Because Thanksgiving falls a bit later than usual this year, Christmas season will hit the ground running in just a few short days… which leaves me wondering: Is Advent really just about here already?
As you know, Advent is the season of preparation and anticipation. We ready ourselves for the holiday by shopping, decorating, planning and feasting. For some of us who remember better times or lost loved ones, however, we may feel less joyous about it. And in far earlier times and for those still awaiting a savior, prophets prepared the way by preaching repentance, issuing warnings, and urging change.
I’m inclined to fill things up during Advent. I fill silence with festive music. I fill gaps in my evenings with holiday movies, yes even the romantic ones staring Candace Cameron-Bure from the Hallmark Channel. I prepare lists filled with things to buy and fill my car trunk up with packages. I fill my house with colorful decorations, my schedule with get-togethers and my belly with things I shouldn’t. Someone I know always makes me a gigantic bowl filled with chocolate covered peanut butter treats and after a few days, I will fill my resolve with promises of how I’ll take better care of myself next year. The season is one of busyness, noise, moving quickly, spending money and running ragged. We fill and we fill and we fill.
And then when Christmas is over, we breathe a sigh of relief…
But there is… I’d like to suggest… another way to prepare, to anticipate. This way involves a different approach. The opposite approach. It’s not about filling, it’s about emptying.
Cardinal Robert Sarah writes in “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise”: “Persons who live in noise are like dust swept along by the wind. They are slaves of a turmoil that destroys their relationships with God. On the other hand, those who love silence and solitude walk step by step toward God; they know how to break the vicious circles of noise, like animal tamers who manage to calm roaring lions.”
The Cardinal is calling us to “love silence and solitude” and in order to do so, we must take the opportunity to empty ourselves of noise, whether audible, visual or internal. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a shopping list or watch Candace Cameron-Bure movies or eat chocolate peanut butter treats, but it does mean that Advent should be about more than just those things. We should actively take the time to empty.
One beautiful way to do so is to take advantage of our Eucharistic Chapel and to sit, in silence, before Jesus. In complete silence. I have been asked several times since we began Perpetual Adoration how someone can best use the time spent there. In other words, how one can fill that time and space with spiritual reading, prayers, intentions, goals, or steps toward more actively embracing grace. This Advent Season, let’s start by letting grace embrace us.
Cardinal Sarah notes: “To stand silently in God’s presence is to pray. Prayer demands that we successfully keep quiet so as to hear and listen to God.”
There’s another way to prepare. Let’s spend this coming Advent quietly praying and embracing silence, by emptying ourselves out so that God can enter in.
And then when Christmas is over, we can walk step by step toward God, together with Christ…