Recently I wrote elsewhere something like: "The saints are those who show us, not tell us, what it means to be holy." Someone objected to this observation, stating he was tired of folks insisting that obedience did not matter. Frankly, I have no idea how someone could construe what I wrote to imply any such thing. Nonetheless, I responded: "The saints show us how to be obedient to the Church and the joy that results from obedience. They show us that when done in love, obedience, far from being an imposition, is liberating." Obedience to Christ, which is obedience to His Church, is the path of liberation.
In the person of Jesus Christ, to quote Michael Card's song "The Final Word," "eternity stepped into time so we could understand." But as those called by Jesus we must also seek to give the Word, who dwells in us and among us by the power of the Holy Spirit, flesh. When the Lord gives Himself to us wholly in the Blessed Sacrament, He asks that we, in turn, give ourselves wholly to Him, in an exchange that is modeled on the mutual self-giving of the Most Holy Trinity. God is a communion of Persons and the Church is called to be a communion of persons.
Advent draws neigh. It begins at sundown this coming Saturday with First Vespers. It is a season we are in danger of forgetting amidst all the excitement that is whipped up about Christmas, which these days begins in earnest immediately following All Hallows. So, this post is perhaps best described as begin the begin, or preparing for the season of preparation; preparing for the Word to take flesh in you and me.
In 2010 my then-bishop, John Wester, who now serves as Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, promulgated the only pastoral letter he wrote while serving the Diocese of Salt Lake City. The subject of this letter, "Waiting in Joyful Hope," was Advent. Bishops issue pastoral letters to address pastoral concerns. Clearly, virtually skipping Advent in our rush towards Christmas is a genuine pastoral concern.
In his 2010 pastoral letter, now-Archbishop Wester provided some questions that are perennially relevant for us to reflect upon each and every Advent, that is, at the beginning of each new year of grace:
Is our hope really in Christ? Have we really allowed ourselves to wait in silence and ponder the great mystery of salvation? Have we been changed by our reflection on this mystery so that we live differently as our relationship with Christ deepens? In the darkness, we watch for the coming Lord. We must not let our busyness distract us from that, lest we be caught unawares like the foolish virgins in the Matthew's Gospel. The season calls us to be attentive to our preparations for the final day and attentive to the quality of our life in union with ChristI am hard-pressed to remember a year darker than the one now ending. Here is our hope: "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5)