I love the Advent Season. My senses seem to sharpen as I take in the simple, stark beauty of this time of year, the beginning of the liturgical calendar. I’m awed by streaks of rose below dark clouds over Lake Superior as I hear the bell “Benedict” echoing through the cloister walk on my way to morning prayer. I hear the match strike in the silence and watch as the taper lights the first purple candle of the Advent wreath. There is the subtle scent of beeswax and evergreens as the minor key of my favorite Advent hymn begins… “For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits… truly my hope is in you.”
All of my senses signal the time of waiting in stillness. They bring to mind the theme of hope which has been particularly in our minds this last year. Sisters across the U.S. entered into a deeper dialogue about the future of religious life and the need to keep hope alive for others in our troubled times. I hear people saying to me, they can’t watch the news or only tune in occasionally. They share stories of the pain experienced by themselves or others: worries about health, struggles coping with loss, and uncertainty about the future. They hope we will pray for them and we do. That is one of our primary charisms as Benedictines. That daily walk to chapel is for them and for all of you. But we too can get caught in the web and whirl of activities, lose focus and wonder where hope lives.
Then it is that the liturgy of the hours and our times of lectio prompt us to silence as we heed the Spirit’s call to wait in darkness for the light that will be revealed. As Daniel Groody says in the introduction to his Advent reflections, we need to cultivate a “night vision” that enables us to “trust a deeper light even amid the darkness” that envelops us.1 Estelle Frankel says it this way, “These times require patience. We must simply wait and tolerate being ‘in the dark’ until we discover the next steps that await us on our path. By enduring the uncertainty of not knowing who we are or where we are going, we grow our souls. The unknown provides the necessary space in which new dimensions of our being can be born.”2 It was out of such a time of uncertainty and hopelessness that the Light of Christ was born into the world.
We hope for you that the season of Advent can be a waiting time, where silent reflection allows you to develop “night vision” and the patience to hear the deepest call within you. Advent reminds us that out of darkness and quiet, creative action becomes possible.
The Benedictine way recommends that you find a quiet uninterrupted space so that you can “listen with the ear of your heart.”
May the Blessings of the Advent season be yours.
Sister Beverly Raway, OSB
1Groody, Daniel G. (2019). Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2019-2020, Liturgical Press: Collegeville, Minnesota.
2Frankel, Estelle (2017). The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty, Shambhala Publications: Boulder, Colorado.