The commercialization of Christmas, accelerated each year, makes Thanksgiving and Advent seem lost causes. It is conceivable that the turkeys will come out as winners in this annual competition with Santa, but is it inevitable that the Liturgy and pregnant mothers will be the last strongholds against this strange turn of affairs which ignores the fact that most ordinary arrivals, and certainly the Great Coming, are preceded by longer, more significant periods of gestation and waiting? Unfortunately, we often share in and facilitate the business world’s guilt in making Christmas a kind of instant heavenly cornucopia. But we can reverse the process.
While realizing the feast does offer rich fare liturgically and imaginatively both for children and adults, we need also to reflect that satisfying their and our own childish impulse to have everything and have it NOW paves the way to a whole lifestyle of unrealistic expectations. Advent, on the other hand, emphasizes the virtue of hope, while at the same time underscoring the fact that we must become children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Though a more seasoned virtue, this patient waiting resembles the expectancy of a child who waits for good things from the hands of a loving parent.
So, too, the virtue of transparency or openness helps us experience our basic emptiness, our need to be filled and completed. It was this openness, found in Mary, which drew Jesus to our earth. As one of her feast day offices reads: “May the prayers of this woman clothed with the sun, bring Jesus to the waiting world and fill the void of incompletion with the presence of her child. . .” In order to be filled, however, we first must experience the void. With the promise of Christmas’ competition, is not the experience of waiting and emptiness worth cultivating during Advent?
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.
Read all Sister Mary E.’s reflections.