Countdown to Advent

You read that right: countdown to Advent, not Christmas. On Saturday evening, when we sing or say First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, we shall enter upon what is, for many of us, the best-loved season of the liturgical year, shot through with silence and mystery and Old Testament prophecy as we await the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. The haunting chants of Advent are unforgettable, and as we sing them out into the darkness, hope is reaffirmed. Whatever difficulty we face, whatever loss we experience, we know that God’s love embraces us all. We may not feel it; we may indeed doubt it; but it is there.

Advent allows us to trace the lineaments of his love through what scripture scholars call, a little glibly I sometimes think, salvation history. This year, with Advent beginning in lockdown and several cautions in place about what we may or may not do once the severest restrictions are eased, may I suggest that a good way of preparing for Christmas would be to reflect on our own personal ‘salvation history’? Often we are so busy that we do not have time to note how God has been at work in our lives, or we feel so battered and bruised by negative events that we choose not to dwell on them. The unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves this year may give us a little more time, certainly a different kind of time, in which to do some thinking and praying.

Regular readers know I am no great fan of setting oneself an elaborate programme for Advent. If you can read the daily Mass lessons and find time to say part of the Divine Office to connect with the prayer of the Church throughout the world, you are doing well. If you do a search on this blog, you will find various posts about Advent; and if you go over to our main website, you will find something on the history and traditions of Advent here: http://www.benedictinenuns.org.uk/Additions/Additions/advent.html
You will also find great riches available to you on the web — more than ever this year.

The important thing to grasp is that Advent is a time of preparation, a precious time leading to Christmas but not yet Christmas itself. We have only a few short weeks and we do not need to cram them with activity, no matter how good that activity may seem. I myself draw inspiration from the darkness of our Herefordshire skies. It is the blackness that enables us to see the beauty of the moon and stars. Without that large emptiness, we would barely register the dazzling pin-pricks of light in the night sky. Without Advent, and its own special emptiness, we might barely register the glory of the Incarnation at Christmas. Let’s try to make the most of it.

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5 thoughts on “Countdown to Advent”

  1. Thank you. An inspired sentence:”it is the blackness that enables us to see the beauty of the moon and stars”. We can apply that to our own lives: all the things, including small things, that we appreciate and miss because they are no longer there and the worldbhas changed so much through this pandemic.
    Stay safe, dear Sister. We pray for you!

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  2. God so loved the world that He sent His only son….
    Thank you, dear Sister Catherine, for another thoughtful blog. Advent is a beautiful time of year leading to the birth of our Saviour.
    Will miss singing at the Advent, Christingle, Nine lessons and carols and Midnight Mass services, but hopefully we will all be around for these next year.
    God bless and keep you and your Sisters safe. Peace and love be with you all now and always.

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  3. Thank you, Sister. I love Advent and try not to get sucked into Christmas too soon – though it’s hard with an 8-year-old in the house! I was pleased this year to hear my daughter say, “I can’t wait for Advent!” as well as the usual “I can’t wait for Christmas!” She and I are going to explore some of the names of Jesus found in the Bible, and our church has sent her an Advent gift with activities for each week.

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