November 30, 2007
I’d like to reflect with you this morning on Advent as we enter into a new liturgical year and prepare for the coming of Christ. For the postulants, this is your first Advent in the monastery and for Sr. Mary Amata it’s the first in our monastery, although I’m sure that there aren’t too many differences—well, maybe it’s a bit busier!
As always, we go to the liturgy to learn how we are to live this season of both preparation and expectation. The antiphon of Matins of this Sunday exhorts us, “Daughters of Jerusalem, rejoice and be glad; your King will come to you!” And, “Let us cleanse our hearts for the coming of the great King.”
So both joy and penance are interwoven during this season. Joy, because “He is coming; he will not delay!” And penance to prepare our hearts to welcome the promised One, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” St. John the Baptist cries out to us.
The penitential character of Advent is different than that of Lent. While the penance of Lent is primarily about expiation for our sins, the penance of Advent is about emptying ourselves of anything that is not of God so as to expand our desires for Him; to become a home for the Word. On the day of His coming we do not want to be like the bride of the Song of Songs whose response to the knock of the Bridegroom was that she didn’t want to get her feet dirty! We want our reply to be that of Esther: “You are wonderful, my Lord, and your countenance is full of grace.”
“It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep.” While in many ways Lent is the season of the monk—for our life is about conversion—I would say that Advent is our season par excellence. Why do we wait on the Lord throughout the night in vigils and holy hours but to express that yearning and longing to experience Him intimately in loving communion so that we can say, “this is my Beloved and this is my friend!”
So during this holy season, I encourage each of you to enter into that deep inner silence of your hearts, and with God’s grace and the help of Our Lady, to be courageous to get rid of anything that may hinder your union with Him, so that on Christmas like Mary you can ponder the WORD in your heart, and you can tell the world, “Lift up your heads; your salvation is at hand!
-Sr. Mary Catharine of Jesus, OP