It was Saturday, it was five fifteen and I had all my children and my parents in my 12 passenger van as we drove to our home parish for the Children’s liturgy on the vigil of the first Sunday of Advent. To keep the chatter to a minimum, I put on the all Christmas songs station and my favorite carol was in its final verse, "O Holy Night."
Now normally, no matter what, that song stops me short of joyful tears with its beauty, both in execution and meaning. But the singer and orchestration in this case was showy and hearing the superfluous flutterings and bells and such put me off. I was about to change the station when my father who is in the middle to advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, joined in the singing, hitting every note and every word perfectly and I had to stop and listen. Dad’s ability to hold a conversation comes and goes and visiting with him requires that one be hyper vigilant about when he is fully present. In the song, he was fully aware and fully singing. How I longed for the song to play on another three verses if only to hear him sing more. I had been mildly irritated and simply focusing on "getting to mass," getting the job done. My father’s voice snapped me awake.
Advent is about being blessedly awake, blessedly present. This wakefulness involves blessedly acutely preparing for the birth of Christ. The trimmings of Christmas, the cards, the presents, the expenses, the menus, the schedules, the preparations can rob us in that moment of being able to see or in my case, hear the beauty that remains undimmed by all the tinsel. That version of "O Holy Night" now will always permanently echo his singing in my heart; it will snap me awake.
But there are so many things that can lull one to sleep spiritually in this season that we need the candles of the Advent wreath, we need the songs about Mary and the stars on the tree. We need all the symbols this season holds to keep redirecting our very distracted souls towards Christ. How in this 24-7 nonstop chattery twittery blackberry cyberspace world of permanent distraction, do we quiet ourselves enough to look up and see the star and feel that awe of God or fall on bended knee before the infant in the stable?
Invite Mary the Mother of God into our homes as a permanent guest, as if she were to be sitting at our table as we eat breakfast or by our sides as we trim the tree or clean the kitchen. She who was pregnant with Christ, remains permeated by Him and knows how we can come to know her son better. She was and is the wakeful virgin, the model of blessed waiting in all things. Letting her quiet instruction guide how we respond to the minutia and the bigger things in life, we will find a lot of unnecessary things fall away.
Asking Mary to be present is asking to have her eyes, to see the sacred in the everyday in everyone. Letting her be in your heart involves practicing due charity, joyful patience and benevolent graciousness even when sales clerks, the people in the line in front of you, the kids in the car or the news of the day seemingly justifies a rant, snarl, rage or a snarky ungenerous or unkind thought, let alone comment.
Advent is about making room in the Inn, allowing the Holy Family to stay in your life and heart. So let us begin today to practice wakefulness by letting Mary sit at the hearth of our homes. She will direct us via her words, "Do whatever He tells you." And her actions, "Let it be done to me according to His will." Have a blessed Advent.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti