Advent: a Season of Watchful Preparation

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Br. Cody Jorgensen, O.P., explains that Advent is a time of vigilance as we await Christ’s birth.

In this moment between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while the carols are already playing, our liturgical calendar goes through its transition: the ending of Ordinary time and the beginning of Advent. My childhood memories from being raised in a non-denominational Christian home are sadly chased away as purple is put up instead of green, celebrating this anticipatory season of Advent rather than instantly moving into the spirit of Christmas cheer. Your non-Catholic family, friends, and co-workers might not even recognize the word if you mentioned it to them, let alone understand its religious significance.

For me, Advent always feels like a season that is not really a season. But maybe this makes sense: Advent is a big spiritual pointer. Just as John the Baptist points to Jesus and not himself, the focus of Advent is less on itself, and more on leading us to Christmas. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).

As we begin this Advent season, let us take the Magi as our guides for the journey toward Christmas. Though their entire story is well-known – from their journey to Bethlehem, the meeting with Herod, eventually finding the Holy Family, and finally escaping by another route – I want to focus on two particular aspects of their odyssey.

First, to have seen the star, they had to have been looking. Every year, the Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent expresses a common theme of vigilance: pay attention and be ready. Our reading this year spoke of apocalyptic signs and calamitous events signaling the end of the world. Rather than be terrified by the end of the world, our reading from Luke’s Gospel announces great hope: “…your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). This is the second aspect of the Magi’s story. They believed that this sign meant good news for them. Their hope in what they would find at their destination motivated them to undertake the arduous journey.

This is our first spiritual task of preparation: watch the signs of our times with hopeful expectation. Let us spend some time reflecting upon the various signs in our lives, both the good and the bad. What are the sins and failures that I have committed? Let these be signs pointing us to turn to God for his mercy. What are the great things that God has done in my life? Let these be the signs of his providence and care for us. With faith in God’s mercy and care, we can deliberately journey in hope towards the coming of our Savior, both at this Christmas, and at the end of time.

-Br. Cody Jorgensen, O.P.

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