December 9, 2011

We are already half way through Advent, our time of preparation for Christmas. Feeling rather as though time were getting away from me, I have been taking stock and pondering the importance of Advent - not just at this time of year, but in my spiritual life at all times.

Advent has been my favourite liturgical season since first becoming Catholic. It is well placed between autumn, naturally a time for assessment and preparation - and winter - the season of hibernation, resting, going into the deep within. Advent has shades of both: it is a season of silence and growth. It is the time of Christ growing in us - as He did in Our Lady - in secret.


Nature has gone quiet, and we are inclined to do likewise, if we listen to the promptings of the Spirit. We enter into the stillness to hear the Voice of God, to be attentive to His Presence, to become aware that "Christ is being formed in our lives from what we are." (62)

It can be very difficult to find that silence when all the world is in a frenzy of gaiety. During this 'holiday season' life for many people is packed with activity and noise, with the pressure to buy, spend and give. What a cacophony! Therefore, what should be simple to achieve, may actually require work and vigilance. Be gentle with yourself and your expectations, but at the same time guard against encroaching holiday hysteria.


Advent is a time for patience. God's work in us - Christ in us - needs time to grow. Jesus often used the imagery of seeds to teach about the Word of God and the life of faith. Advent can be likened to a farmer allowing his fields to lie fallow. The soil is at rest, and in that state is being replenished. The seeds planted in this replenished ground will flourish, bearing good harvest. So it will be with us.  "If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us that we do not disturb this time of growth."  (56)

In Secret

The secrecy is not because we do not or may not speak of what God is doing, but because His work in us is intimate. Think of Mary bearing Jesus in her womb,  (or any woman carrying her child) we all know it is happening, but the work is happening deep within her, beyond the awareness of anyone else.

Though Advent is a time of inward-turning contemplation, this is not a selfish time; it dos not exclude extending love outward. Like Mary, we offer to God what we have and what we are: our hands, our feet, our words, and actions. We, like Mary, offer Christ the simplicity of our daily life. (55)

"For some it is a painful experience - no feeling of love or peace or patience. For those, the Holy Spirit asks them to suffer the period of growth. Peace will come. Be silent for the season measured by God. Christ asks that He may be a light shining in the darkness." (56)

"We must never forget that it is the Holy Spirit who sows this Christ seed in us [...] we ought to let everything grow in us, as Christ grew in Mary. And we ought to realise that in everything that does grow quietly in us, Christ grows. [...] There are things that refuse to be violated by speed [...] If you have a thought, a chance word, a phrase of music in your mind, growing and cherished for its proper reason, you will have the wisdom or peace or strength that was hidden in that seed." (66, 67)

My prayer for you all is to have the silence necessary to prepare well for the coming of the Lord. May you all know the growth of love within, and have the grace to share it in the very simplicity of your lives. I hope this will be personal and profound - a tailor-made gift from the One who knows you like no other.
Come, Lord Jesus!

All quotations are from Reed of God by Caryll Houselander


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