The season of Advent is always a welcome and joyous part of our monastic lives. We look forward to all of the rich Old Testament Scripture readings that reawaken our hearts to the desire to be more faithful to our monastic profession:
“Behold, the Lord will come, and all his holy ones with him; and on that day there will be a great light.” (Zech. 14:5, 7)
“On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isa. 11:1)
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples…” (Isa. 25:6-7)
“No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ when you would turn to the right or to the left.” (Isa. 30:20-21)
“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! (Isa. 40:3).”
But as I ponder these hope-filled readings, my heart feels for the world as it suffers the horrific effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel for all those who have suffered in the hospitals, healthcare workers and rapid responders who continue to work long hours, those who have lost loved ones, children who have lost their parents, those who have lost their jobs, and for all those who are now homeless or have no food.
Praying with the above Scripture readings, my heart takes on a pandemic hope for the world. I know that the Light of Christ is overshadowing our world to restore it to “normalcy” with wholeness, joy, hope, peace, and love. In the meantime, waiting is hard. “Patience is a virtue,” as my mother always told me.
St. Benedict in his chapter on Obedience in the Rule reminds us that “It is love that impels them to pursue everlasting life” (5:10). God’s love has brought us to birth. God’s love sustains us as we live our monastic profession one day at a time. God’s love makes it possible for us to birth love to the world. It is love, God’s love for us and our love for God, that impels us to pray for and reach out to our world.
Advent is a time for listening, waiting, and watching for the rebirthing of Christ within us. Advent 2020, because of its pandemic context, calls us to a deeper simplicity. Do we really need so many gifts? Do we really need so many Christmas decorations? Do we really need so many parties? The old adage “Jesus is the reason for the season” must be remembered. Let us think of ways to gift LOVE and may LOVE be the motivation for all our Advent and Christmas activities.
The following poem by Edwina Gately (Weavings magazine) captures the essence of Advent 2020:
There is a divinity split over the earth
that flows where we don’t see and clothes
all dead and living things in mantles of eternity.
Though in our gray and stressed out world
we miss the holy thing, still it shines,
wove fast and deep in our dark humanity.
And if one day we’d dare to glance
into a child’s wondrous eyes, we’d see reflected,
shining there, God’s bright inviting dance.
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB