Monday, November 15, 2010

Advent is the time for rousing

I'm in the throes of writing four reflections on Advent for the paper. I took a long contemplative walk at the old Jesuit novitiate last week with various possiblities and by the end had settled on exploring some themes from Isaiah. What are the prophets of rousing us to here and now, how do we respond to our own baptismal call to be a prophet?

I love the stillness that Advent traditionally promotes, and have argued in the past for a stance of "extravagant unbusyness." But this year I've been reading Rabbi Abraham Herschel's book The Prophets. His initial reflection, "What manner of man is the prophet?" offers, "Reading the words of the prophets is a strain on the emotions, wrenching one's conscience from the state of suspended animation." Shudder, you complacent ones, says Isaiah [Is 49:2].

Jesuit Alfred Delp, reflecting on Advent in his last days in prison pulls out a similar thread. (He would be executed less than two months later by the Nazis for being part of a plot to kill Hitler, a bit of history in which Math Man's family plays a role, which may be at least a small part of why I find Delp's writings so deeply moving) Delp starkly states, "Advent is the time for rousing. Humanity is shaken to the very depths...The kind of awakening that literally shocks a person's whole being is part and parcel of the Advent idea."

My favorite reading of all of Advent is this one from Isaiah (and in this particular translation as well), which this year is absent from the cycle (the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th takes precedence in the calendar).

Photo is from the walk at the Jesuit center.

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