Heightened Expectancy: a Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Heightened Expectancy: a Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

This reflection by +Sister Mary E. Penrose, written in 2012 and edited for today, rings even more true today. May we be grateful this year for four full weeks of Advent Waiting.

We must first experience the void before we can hope for fulfillment.

The commercialization of Christmas, which begins earlier each year, makes Thanksgiving and Advent lost causes, as stores are decked with holly and tinsel even before Halloween. But is it possible that Liturgy and pregnant mothers can be the last bastions against this impatience? Can we see that most ordinary arrivals, and certainly the Great Coming, are preceded by long periods of gestation and waiting?

Too often we share in the commercial guilt by making Christmas a kind of instant heavenly cornucopia. The Solemnity of Christmas offers rich fare, liturgically and imaginatively, both for children and adults, but satisfying the childish impulse to have everything – and have it NOW – will pave the way for a lifetime of unrealistic expectations and disappointments.

Advent, on the other hand, emphasizes the virtue of hope. It reminds us that we must become children again if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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, of openness, helps us experience our basic emptiness, our need to be filled and completed by One greater than we are. 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.”

To be filled we first must experience the void. With the promise of Christmas ahead, is not the experience of waiting and emptiness worth cultivating during Advent?

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“Before all, and above all, attention shall be paid to the care of the sick, so that they shall be served as if they were Christ Himself.”
–St. Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict