An Advent meditation: memory and hope

A lit candle is seen on an Advent wreath in this 2016 photo. We remember that God's first miracle, light, is also his most frequent. -CNS photo | Lisa Johnston, St Louis Review

By Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield

Catholic News Service

“So … what are you giving up for Advent?”

Lent gets all the attention. There is Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, the daily “giving up” of chocolate and meatless Fridays. Lent has a lot of reminders. But Advent sneaks up on us.

   For a string of Sundays, the priest is in green vestments signifying Ordinary Time in the church. Then, all of a sudden, the priest enters Mass in purple vestments. Oh, and there’s the Advent wreath — the three purple candles and one rose candle. Each week of Advent, we light another candle.

   As the days get shorter and the sun sets earlier, as the darkness grows outside, the light grows within the church. Light is God’s first miracle: “Let there be light” (Gn 1:3). And to this day, light expands, traveling at over 186,000 miles per second.

   It may seem, with the natural disasters this past year, the hurricanes and earthquakes, wildfires and disease, and of course with all of the man-made disasters of racism, gun violence and drug dealing, that the days are getting darker. There are the personal hurts and those of our families … job loss, depression and long-held misunderstandings.

   We need the light to grow. With so much going on in the world we ask ourselves, what can we do? We can remember. Memory sparks light. Advent is the great memory of the church.

   We remember that God’s first miracle, light, is also his most frequent. We remember that the Creator of light made our human nature his own and in his humanity began to form in the womb of Mary.

   We remember that Jesus, in his death and resurrection, has defeated death on its own ground, and in the world’s darkest place — the sealed tomb — light, uncontainable supernatural light, began to grow. It was the last place one would expect anything new to ever emerge.

   And for the Catholic, memory is never nostalgia — it is never confined to the past. Hope looks to the future. So does Advent.

   And so, what can we do? It all begins with light. Hope is the light of Advent.  Patience is hope rehearsing. Patience is hope’s favorite hiding place.

   Not patience as a passive “sitting still,” but patience in the face of our old battlegrounds — where we want to have the last word, be in control, be first, have our own way.

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