Preparing for Advent

This Sunday will mark the beginning of Advent, that all-too-short period of preparation for Christmas, when most of us try to juggle spiritual preparations with more mundane matters concerning family, food and ‘the festive break’. Some are already planning reading programmes and multitudinous good works, none of which is to be mocked or disparaged. But could I suggest that Advent itself needs to be prepared for, and that the best way of preparing for Advent is, contrary to what you might think, not-doing?

It is good during these last few days before Advent begins to be silent rather than trying to decide what we are going to read or do by way of Advent preparations. If you can, try to find some time during the day when you are not doing anything in particular, not reading, not praying as such, just being quiet and attentive; and let the silence within you grow and grow until you can hear it, embrace it, make it part of your life. It is in that silencing of mind and heart that we allow God an opportunity to make his Advent within us. It is a paradox, but if we would welcome the Word into our lives, we must first learn what it means to be wordless.

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Preparing for Advent

During this last week of the Church’s year, we prepare for Advent. Advent is itself a time of preparation, so you may be wondering why we are preparing to prepare, so to say. Partly, it is a response to the unpredictability of life. How often have plans to read/do something been thwarted by minor domestic crises or the arrival of unexpected visitors! Partly it is to allow the significance of the season to register properly, which takes time and planning.

This week we shall be trying to  tidy up several ‘loose ends’. We don’t do much in the way of Christmas shopping, but what we do will be mainly done this week. We shall try to catch up with the most urgent correspondence. I myself have an ever-diminishing hope of redecorating the kitchen for Christmas and I know that Quietnun has a few private schemes of her own. Then, on the first Sunday of Advent, we shall enter upon three days of as near-total silence as we can manage. The telephone will be switched to answerphone; Twitter, Facebook and this blog will have scheduled posts (written this week); email will be checked and answered on an ‘as need’ basis. The monastery will be silent, except for the times of the Divine Office. The silence will not be empty, for it is in such silence that the Word comes to those willing to listen; and Advent is above all a time for listening, of preparing a welcome for the Word of God.

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