In an article entitled “The End of Advent” by Joseph Bottum (Catholic Education Resource Centre) he states that ” Christmas has devoured Advent, gobbled it up with turkey giblets and the goblets of seasonal ale.” He claims that the disappearance of Advent has “opened up a hole, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas.”
From First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life (December 2007)
That sense of waiting, anticipation, wonder and magic, which we associate with our childhood, has almost disappeared as Christmas is pushed further back (forward) in the calendar year even eclipsing Hallowe’en. We have Christmas every day now starting in early September. We fill that hole with parties, tinsel, glitter, presents, shopping so that when the day actually comes it’s nearly an anti-climax, just another day like any other. Some are now referring to the feast of Christmas as “The End of Year Festival.”
Reading about the ‘hole that has opened up’ in Joseph Bottum’s article reminds me of the words of St. Augustine in his Confessions,
“For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”
And again in the words of Blaise Pascal,
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?
This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
– Blaise Pascal’s Pensees
How do we put Christ back in CHRISTmas? How do we recapture the true meaning of the Birth of Christ? How do we escape the madness of this “End of Year Festival?” We need to convert that ‘hole that has opened up’ to a God-shaped hole. A SPACE FOR GOD ALONE! This idea is beautifully captured in the following reflection by Page Zyromski.
“We’re born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. It’s a space for God alone. Until we recognize what it is, we try to fill it up by stuffing earthly things into it – possessions, activities, self-importance. It’s like trying to force the wrong piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a space not meant for it. We don’t know why we’re not satisfied, so we search for novelty in the things we cram into the hole. It doesn’t work. Nothing but God will fit the God-shaped hole. Advent is our time to unclog that hole, to clear out all the litter. What obstructions are blocking the space we give to God in our lives? Are we offering him a temporary parking place until Christmas, or a permanent dwelling? If we’re faithful to this season year after year, something wonderful happens. We want to give God more and more room. The feeling lasts longer and longer after Christmas. The God-shaped hole enlarges! Each year it widens. Like a dilated pupil in the eye, people see more and more of God in us and less and less of our own willfulness. We’re able to say with John the Baptist and the great saints, “He must increase and I must decrease.” One day we suddenly realize that when Mary said, ” My soul magnifies the Lord,” the God-shaped hole in her heart was largest of all. Not only could people see God in her life, they could see him magnified, enlarged”.
– Page Zyromski
For some inspiring and thoughtful reflections on Advent check out http://www.christianbrothervocation.org
Prayer for Advent
Look on us, Jesus, and let
all the darkness of our souls
disappear before the beams
of your brightness.
Fill us with your holy love,
and open to us
the treasures of your wisdom.
You know all our desire,
so bring to perfection
what you have started,
and what the Holy Spirit
has wakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek your face,
turn your face to us
and show us your glory.
Then our longing will be satisfied
and our peace will be perfect.
—St. Augustine of Hippo