I hope everyone has been enjoying the best season of the year! While secular Christmas music and decor can be nice (and luckily, because they’re ubiquitous), I am referring to the liturgical season of Advent. My friends believe Advent to be my favorite time of year because it typically needs considerable defense against the encroachment of the Christmas season, and I am happy to defend it. We need Advent. In my last post, I stated that if we don’t make time to consider consciously what vision we want to move towards, we’ll never move towards it. Advent is the season during which the Church encourages us to do just that.
So allow me to profess my love for this season. This profession might seem fairly theologically-minded, but I’m a firm believer that thoroughly theological reflection is often eminently practical - when we reflect on our vision, our subsequent actions reflect whether or not we truly envision something important.
Looking forward to Christmas alone is the small-minded view of Advent. Yet somehow, it’s the view that even this well-catechized Catholic girl espoused until college – and I don’t think I was alone. Certainly, Christmas is one thing for which we’re preparing. Through our Christmas liturgies, we want to adequately remember and celebrate the miraculous divine self-emptying gift that is the Incarnation, and as always, the salvation that resulted from it. Most Advent calendars and other such aids help us towards this goal.
However, when I listen to the Advent liturgies, I hear a different exhortation. The first Sunday alone, we heard of eternal justice, power and great glory, and were told, “Your redemption is at hand.” Even if I listen just to the Lord’s Prayer, the first half expresses our hope for the fulfillment of several things which the original Christmas enabled. These Scriptures point me toward the greater reality for which we are currently preparing: the eschaton, or the reign of God on earth.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the eschaton. The Kingdom of God is here already? But not yet? It is “at hand”? What does this language of faith mean? Simple. In one of his homilies on Ezekiel, Pope Gregory the Great compares the joy we have now to the joy in store: “The fire of love which begins to burn here on earth, flares up more fiercely with love of God when he who is loved is seen.” Already, we can welcome the fire of Christ’s love into our hearts. But not yet - that love gets inexpressibly better. Advent is a season of hope, and the true beauty of hope is that we believe one day it will be fulfilled. The greatness of Advent is that eventually it will become obsolete.
Take a minute with me this Advent to think about our vision, the Kingdom of God;
All injustices will be made right. We will be living with God, in a world without end. We will no longer get in our own way and separate ourselves from Him. We will glorify Him as we should. There will be no holds barred from His all-encompassing love. This is what we wait for. This is our hope. This is the reality of which Advent reminds us, provided we don’t skip past it. How can we be anything but joyful?
Laura Berlage serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ