Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Advent at CatholicPhilly: Impatient with joy

The Visitation
I've been reading Evangelii Gaudium slowly and reflectively, no skimming to see what lies ahead (though I did find the closing prayer while looking for endnotes!)  If you can read the Spanish in which Pope Francis composed it, do; I'm finding it both more beautiful and powerful than the English translation.  He stretches the language in ways that remind me of Rahner.

Brother Mickey McGrath's work is ever full of joy.  You can find the painting of the visitation I refer to here.

This reflection appeared on 4 December 2013.

It is Advent, a season of waiting, a celebration of expectation. There is a lot of waiting going on at my house these days, though nothing quite yet to celebrate. Chris sent off his applications to college in mid-September and he expects to hear back some time in the next two weeks.

The waiting has left him off-balance, uncertain. He sorts the mail with an anxious edge, is this the envelope? An email from admissions at one of his chosen schools starts his heart pounding, until he realizes the subject line is “December newsletter.” It’s hard to celebrate this kind of waiting, uncertain of the answer and precisely where and when it will arrive. And there is not much he can do, other than sit and wait.

At one level, there is no uncertainty to Advent’s waiting. We know the decision: God sent us His Son. We know the outcome: our salvation. We know the time and the place and the cast of characters of this arrival, the way in which the Word took flesh in an infant, born in a stable. And while we do not know when Christ will return for us again, we are certain of the outcome. He will come in glory, bringing salvation for His faithful.

Unlike high school seniors waiting for their college acceptances, we cannot and should not wait passively for this second Advent. The words of the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Advent encourage us to “run forth to meet your Christ.” The psalm, too, urges us to move, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord!”

I am reminded of Brother Mickey McGrath’s lively painting of Elizabeth greeting Mary, painted for the sisters of the Monastery of the Visitation in Minnesota. Elizabeth smiles warmly, her skirt flying behind her as she runs forth to greet Mary, and the Divine child she bears. She is certain of the news Mary is bringing her, so certain she reaches out to embrace Mary and the God made flesh hidden within her.

Pope Francis’ in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, speaks to us of the joyous good news that impels us to move out of our old orbits. God calls to us to co-labor with him, led by the Spirit. In a thousand ways, God inspires, provokes, guides and walks with us. And we are to go, Pope Francis tells us, rejoicing.

It is not a single moment we await, but we await the Word made flesh again and again in us. In a reflection on Psalm 46, St. Augustine reminded us “I created you, and I recreate you; I formed you and I formed you anew.” We celebrate this newness God grants us in our lives, even as we wait for Christ’s second Advent.

I hope this Advent to give over patiently waiting for God to come to me, but instead, impatient with joy, run forth to meet Christ.

Mary, Virgin and Mother,

you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life

in the depths of your humble faith:  

as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”

to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,

to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

– from the prayer that closes Evangelii Gaudium (“The Gospel of Joy”) by Pope Francis

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