As I sit here drinking my coffee, ignoring the plaintive cries of my toddler for a few more minutes, two candles are glowing in the background. I wrote last year about my love of Advent, a feeling that gets stronger each year. This season I find myself waiting for many things–my students to turn in their final projects so I can put my online class to rest, paychecks to come, temper tantrums to end. I can feel my daughter forcefully moving, which has me impatiently thinking of the day when I get to hold her.
I am trying something new this Advent, which I hope will evolve, the way these things do, into a loved tradition. I filled the drawers of our Advent calendar with things to do. Some are big, like visiting Zoo Lights, but most are small things that we can do each day to put us in the right mindset. So far we have danced to Christmas carols and mailed postcards to loved ones far away. Soon we will count the donation pig and do something for some else. It is an attempt to remind us about what we are spiritually waiting for, beyond the temporary desires that hit each December.
We sing the missa simplex at our church this liturgical season, and one line keeps coming back to me each morning: “Christ, true light from light, heal our blinded sight.” As I hear hate speech coming from a presidential candidate in the wake of heartbreaking violence, I pray that this season of waiting will allow us all to open our eyes to the beauty and goodness that still exists in our world.
I have always loved advent; it is my favorite liturgical season. I like that it builds gradually but steadily, leading me on an outward journey while simultaneously causing me to reflect on what exactly it is that I am waiting for. Focusing on advent helps me remember that Christmas itself doesn’t start until the sun sets on Christmas Eve and that when it finally arrives, when the wait is over, we get the chance to celebrate for a week and a half.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m no Scrooge. I buy presents and decorate the house and mail out cards during these weeks of waiting. I go to parties and bake cookies and try to spread joy. But these four weeks help me focus on the bigger reason why I am doing those things.
In addition to the Christmas songs we listen to, I sing my favorite advent hymns. They are filled with a longing that I understand more each year that I sing them. We also have a homemade advent wreath that we pray over every evening before dinner, using the same prayers that I remember from my childhood. They are simple, short and beautiful. In fact, this week’s prayer is perfect for how I am feeling this moment:
Father in heaven, the day draws near when the birth of your son will make radiant the night of the waiting world. May his quiet coming fill us with true inner peace.
Waiting and quiet. Night and inner peace. These are the words that I associate with advent. May your own season of waiting bring you joy!
This Lent felt longer than the past several, and I think it was a combination of factors that made it so. We don’t eat meat everyday in my house regardless of the liturgical season, but we made it a point this year to abstain on Fridays and to have at least one other meatless dinner a week. We did it so that we would be thoughtful of the season because it certainly isn’t an actual sacrifice for us. I like singing in Latin, but after weeks of Sanctus, I was ready for the Holy, Holy, Holy. I didn’t fast because I’m currently feeding myself and my kid, which makes for a perfect storm of caloric needs. Nevertheless, the season felt long.
The result was that I was very ready for a joyous celebration. We were able to go to Nashville to spend time with half of our family and to meet our newest member. At twenty days old, my nephew may have been the youngest person at mass. Despite really, really wanting to celebrate Easter inside the beautiful, packed church with the excellent choir, I spent the homily through communion sitting on the stairs outside and wandering through the outdoor stations of the cross. A few things happened–I forgot my medicine, the incense was strong, the hand bell choir rang their bells nonstop through the Gloria (another song I was really happy to sing again), and–most critically, because I could definitely handle everything else had this not happened–my favorite baby kept me up all night for the fifth night in a row. He was out of whack and woke me up roughly every forty-five minutes. I drank too much coffee to attempt to stay awake through mass, which was the crucial mistake. I could feel the wonky feeling turning into a hot flash and a solid dose of panic, which I took as my cue to exit quietly.
You know what? I’ve always felt closest to God outside. My Easter in the outdoor garden under the trees looking at the flowers and getting myself together was exactly right.