Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Joy of Advent

A reflection on the season of Advent given to the community of the Abbey of St. Walburga by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB.

There is no mention of Advent in the Rule of St. Benedict, but I believe St. Benedict did take into account Advent. There is a sense of continual Advent woven into our lives. Our Rule is meant to keep us in Advent throughout the year. Our life is like the early Church, working, praying, serving, washing the feet of each other, and living in expectation of the Second Coming. Because St. Benedict's Rule resembles so much the life of the early Church, the spirit of Advent is the norm for the true monk.
In chapter 4 of the Rule, we hear St. Benedict urging us to live life passionately seeking Eternal Life. Advent is not quite lent, but there's something about it that should be different from ordinary time. It is really a time in which we stand ready, we renew our vigilance and purge our hearts of the world to recognize our deep need for Jesus as Savior. From this comes the deep joy of gratitude for the Incarnation of God.

St. Benedict wants nothing of the spirit of the world in his monks. In Advent, the life of the community is purified. We as a community work together to have a pure monastic life. We prepare for the Incarnation. We look for the gift. One of the things we know of Advent is vigilance. On this, Thomas Merton says, "Vigilance is a particular expression of monastic purity of heart-- the virginity of spirit 'proper' to the life of contemplation... We wait with lamps trimmed, like wise virgins, for the Parousia. This is a basic truth, common to all, but especially emphasized by monks." (Merton, 62) And later, Merton says of Advent, quoting St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "... the Sacrament (of Advent) is the Presence of Christ in the world as Savior." (Merton, 64) Christ as Savior. That's the difference. Advent is the time in which we recognize our need for a Savior. None of us could open the Gates of Heaven.

In this time of Advent, we look at our lives. What have you "collected" of the world that dims the light of Christ? Recognize, too, the birth of Christ in one another. We as a community form the Body of Christ. We need to give witness to that. We must work together to bring Christ's light to the world.

The Church cries out. The Voice of Christ cries out through His Church: "Awake! Stay awake, be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come!" "Being awake for God and for other people, " says Pope Benedict XVI, "that is the kind of 'waking' that Advent has in mind, the wakefulness which discovers the light and brightens the world." (Ratzinger, 18)

Do purge the world from your life. Do take the time to pray, saying, "O the Gift! What is to come!" Contemplate on how the Blessed Mother would have prayed during this time. How would she have prepared? Let us keep this in mind and have a spirit of preparing in the same way.

Finally, don't forget to greet the Christ in one another. Give a sense of presence with a smile. Make your work areas places of peace. Remember one another in charity, for where charity and love prevail, there is Christ.

May your Advent be a joyful time in preparation for Christ. Pray for His coming. Come Lord Jesus!


Bibliography:

Merton, Thomas. Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical Feasts. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 1965.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Seek That Which is Above. Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1986.

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