I wrote this for a limited circulation Catholic magazine in 1995, and this week found a copy stashed in the Advent/Christmas volume of my breviary. Crash was about 8 months old!
I love the evenings of early winter. The colors of the sunset are so gentle, the air so clear, the branches so stark against the waning light. There is such a sense of clarity and stillness about them.
Something about that sky invites me to stop -- not to admire or to capture -- simply to stop. It’s a feeling at such odds with my life in this season. I am always struggling to squeeze that last bit of information into my students, to write that final exam and grade those papers and somehow eke out a moment to bake a cookie or two. Yet there is that sky, quietly, insistently drawing me into its stillness.
Last year the autumn chaos was worse than ever. Back from a year’s sabbatical, I was teaching a new course, trying to prepare a paper for a meeting overseas and in the midst of it all get things ready for a new baby. I hadn’t much time for sky watching. The first weekend of Advent found me early to Saturday Mass. The candles were lit and the light was soft and gentle. I could merely stop, like a breath suspended in time. In that incredible stillness, I could suddenly feel the child within me. The stirrings inside were gentle, yet unmistakable. What I had rationally known for almost five months, but somehow never quite believed, was suddenly abundantly clear -- I was not alone. A new life was struggling to make its approach known to me, and here in the stillness of a winter evening I could finally hear it.
Christ is that winter’s evening. A light that is soft, yet one that brings the world into clear focus. A center of stillness, gently, inexorably drawing us into a place where we may simply stop and wonder. A place out of time where the stirrings of a new life might be finally be felt. A place where we are not alone. This is the Christ of the O Antiphons. O Lord of Light, come light the hearts of those in shadow! O Spring of Joy, fill our thirsty hearts! O Root of Life, may your seed come to fruition within us!
As Advent approaches, I find myself again watching the evening sky and remembering the faint stirrings of the babe in my womb.. The stillness still draws me into it, despite the lusty cries of hunger from a babe now in arms. For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you.