In the monastery one is immersed in the liturgy of Advent. There is something uniquely beautiful about the texts Mother Church has chosen and the music of the chants and hymns we sing that evoke a silent wonder intermingled with expectant joy.
We have been created for the Infinite and our hearts thirst for the "King in beauty" as another verse of this hymn describes the Savior who is coming. Advent is the time, through penance, fasting and vigils to renew our efforts to let go of anything that mutes and deadens that thirst and to allow God to make a home for the Word in our hearts. "Who eats of Thee hungers still, who drink of Thee still feel a void," St. Bernard exclaims in his Jubilus rithmicus de amore, Jesu. So if Advent is a time of desire, of expectation and of the contemplation of the "shining Sun and lovely Star" it's no wonder that the world fills this time with commercialism, busy-ness and trying to convince us that the Curier and Ives Christmas is the "successful" celebration of Christmas when the truth is that a promise such as this will only leave us depressed and disappointed! No wonder so many people not only dread but really hate this season! The world has robbed them of the joy of wonder of "finding the Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manager."
For the first few years in the monastery it fills a bit strange not to "get in the season" as they say by the lights and decorations in the stores and down Main Street. Then one day, you are going off to the dentist and you see all this and you think, "why do they have all those decorations up?" One sister was having blood work done and heard Christmas music over the radio. Just in time she caught herself from asking the technician, "Why are they playing Christmas music?"
Without Advent Christmas doesn't really make sense except that the little baby in the manager and the sheep and oxen and donkey look cute. Without Advent, Christmas becomes a marathon holiday that feels a bit flat and sour on December 26th. (And we'll try to remember later the importance of having the feast of Martyrs the days after Christmas.)
So, we wish each of our readers and grace-filled, expectant Advent filled witih the longing for Him who is our Peace, our Joy and our Beauty!
The King shall come when morning dawns...when beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awake. (John Brownlie)