Advent is not just a liturgical season, it's a spiritual reality that has been touching, moving, and changing me all my life. In this season, I reflect not only on the coming of Christ in history, but Christ's coming to my own personal history. His presence is tangible in all the advents of my life.
Advent means "coming," "arrival," or "appearance." These all makes sense when I relate "advent" to the coming of Christ. By the miracle of the Incarnation, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. Through that same incarnation, I can understand the Lord's coming in all the "advents" of my own life.
Let's start with my conception and being alive in my mother's womb—my "coming." My mother was, and is, an active Catholic. During her pregnancy with me, she received communion during Mass. As she "received" the Lord, in some way, so did I. As the Lord touched my mother through those frequent communions, he also touched me. For as a mother is fed, so is her unborn child. All nutrition passes from mother to child. The body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist pumped through my veins even as a tiny baby hidden from the world but known to God and my parents.
The next advent or appearance of Christ was at my baptism. Even if I was not fully aware of my being baptized as an infant, I didn't need to be. I was baptized into the faith of the Church. Christ's presence permeated the process of my "becoming." "In him, we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28 RSV).
Slowly, as I grew, my parents and teachers taught me about God and his love. The earliest actual Advent-season memory I have is as a child making ornaments for a Jesse tree. Retelling Bible stories that foreshadowed the coming of Jesus, each ornament symbolized an event in history before the Christ was born. For Christ was "a shoot from the stump of Jesse" (Is. 11:1a). Those Advent memories, from the Jesse tree, to our Advent wreath, to our Advent calendar, were the advent of my knowledge of Jesus—who he was and who I was in relation to him.
My First Communion echoed the spiritual journey that began from the womb. It was, as far as I could manage at the age of reason, a conscious bringing of myself to Christ, and a coming of Christ to me. Only this time, Christ's presence was in the appearance of consecrated bread and wine, fed to me by my mother, the Church.
Years later I was confirmed with a new sacramental "coming" of the Holy Spirit. It was a seed of faith that blossomed in my teen years as I matured in my relationship with Jesus. In my local parish church, I met Christians who were "on fire" for God. In those years, you could say my faith was "caught," not taught. As I grew in my faith, I better understood my Confirmation, and the grace of that sacrament.
The advent of my wedding day was a coming to live for Jesus in a radically new way. I vowed to live in communion with my husband in loving service to Christ and others. It was a vocation, lived out on many levels: from the experience of making a home that another wanted to come home to, to the profound power of coming to one another in the marriage bed, to the transformation of becoming a family with children.
The coming of our three children was love "personified" and made visible. Whenever I listen to husbands and wives share about life-changing events, inevitably their stories revolve around their marriages and their children. These family encounters really are the appearances of the love of God in our midst, if we have eyes to see, ears to hear.
The new advent for my husband and me is "the empty nest." My young adult children are moving on to what is coming in their own lives. Two of my three are already out on their own.
The last great advent is my own death. It's not morbid for Christians to think about it; in fact, the Church beckons us to consider our deaths in light of this holy season. Advent reminds us of the promise of Jesus to come again. The Second Coming is the hope of all our tomorrows. We are called to deeply prepare for his final coming as judge at our death and at the end of the world.
Thanks to Jesus, all my advents lead to him. They propel me forward, ultimately, toward communion with him, the True Advent, whose coming makes all of my life make sense.
12/5/2012 5:00:00 AM