Practicing Advent Online
Like many of us, the Pandemic revealed to me how much of my spiritual community exists online. My spiritual practices have been transformed by people I know electronically. This year I am preparing to practice Advent online.
One thing which makes us “liturgical” is following an annual pattern of the parts of our story we remember called the liturgical year. Each year has something in common with other years; each year is unique.
Our liturgical years have seasons, just like our regular calendar years. Each season focuses on a theme, like “the holidays” or “hockey season.”
Next week we will begin the first season of a new liturgical year, sort of our New Year’s Day.
Advent is the first season of each liturgical year. Advent sets the tone for the rest of the year. The theme of Advent is finding the sacred in the everyday.
We remind ourselves about the spiritual life all around us with everyday things. We use light and water, candles and bread, music and wine, words and computers to remember.
Advent often begins slowly. Like the dawn of each new morning, Advent reminds us light already exists. Daylight has not gone away; we just do not see it yet. Our liturgical year, our entire spiritual journey, is filled with opportunities to remember the light is still there.
In the middle of a great darkness, we begin to see light.
Each year, we remind ourselves there is light in the darkness. We light another candle each week of Advent. The light grows in the darkness each week, reminding us the sacred is with us every day.
Our year begins in cold darkness. Slowly, we remember and welcome the fire of the sacred into our lives again.
We Ask Ourselves, “What is Advent All About?”
It could be because we are afraid of the dark.
As daylight gets shorter and darkness grows, as we approach the end of each year, we enter a season our culture calls “The Holidays.” We barely have time to experience each one distinctly. The days blend together, becoming one big excuse to spend and consume. We get overwhelmed in a rush of costumes and candy, turkey and football, carols and trees. We shortchange ourselves. Days become things to be endured, sources of tension. We talk about “getting through” or “surviving” the Holidays.
Advent is the opposite of all of that. Advent is all about taking time to prepare and to anticipate. It is not the anticipation of eagerly reaching forward, trying to hasten the arrival of the present, the gift, the payoff. We are savoring the anticipation, recognizing it and swirling it around in our mouths. It is rooted in our attention to the present moment, not our desires for the future nor our regrets about the past. Advent is all about becoming ready for what is coming.
We are learning to anticipate without rushing.
Taking time, we light one candle the first week, another the next week, and another the next. Slowly, when it is time, all of the candles are glowing. They are not even and it reminds us of how we have waited and prepared in anticipation.
We open one door, and receive one treat, each day. Advent is not about opening all the doors and eating all of the chocolate all at once; it is about tasting and remembering the flavor of each piece.
Above all, Advent is about the combining of the challenges and the joy that come from waiting and preparing in anticipation. We are quiet enough to listen, yet expectant enough to continue.
We Ask Each Other, “What is Advent All About?”
The season of Advent is about more than our own personal contemplation. We reflect and remember, and we share our stories with each other.
We take time to be mindful of the people who surround us in our community during Advent. I reflect on the people I know online, and the other people who have fed and supported me. There is time to prayerfully remember the monks and other Oblates at New Camaldoli.
We remember people who have helped ignite and fuel the fire of spiritual life burning within us, and in the world around us. Those who inspire us and those who challenge us to put our insights and questions into practice.
At the beginning of the liturgical year we gather our memories, reflecting on how they fit together. People and experiences we thought we understood flare into new life within us.
Advent is all about seeing things in new ways. We realize things are not settled, but alive within us.
We remind each other of our stories, which sparks the flames of new lessons and new insights in our hearts.
Are We Practicing Advent Online This Year?
The liturgical season of Advent this year gives each of us opportunities to remember and reflect, seeing things in new ways.
We share our memories and experiences, embellishing our stories, and spark the fire of spiritual life within each other. The light of our inner fire shines in the darkness, reminding us we are surrounded and filled with spiritual life, even when it seems dark.
Advent is all about reminding us, at the beginning of each new year, how spiritual life infuses our everyday lives. Taking time to listen and pay attention, we remember how sacred everyday life is.
A friend of mine, another spiritual director, and I are beginning an online community which will meet each week for Advent this year.
We think our Zoom community can be a helpful way for people to explore this intimidating liturgical season.
It is not about trying to force anyone into anything or convince anyone. We come together online, settle into stillness, and share our questions and insights about spiritual practices. It is a way for us to experience being together online.
We will meet on Zoom each Wednesday from 9:30 to 10:30 AM Pacific time, beginning on Wednesday, November 29. Let me know if you are interested. Bring your questions.
Will you join us in practicing Advent online this year?
What is Advent online all about for us?
[Image by the_42nd_dragon]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is http://StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.