+THE ADVENT SEASON AND OUR MONASTIC LIVES ChapTalk 28 Nov.2021
This morning I thought to share a few reflections on the Advent season. It is a busy time for us here at Gethsemani with all the orders coming in and our efforts to get everything shipped out in time for Christmas. The fact that so much of the income by which we support ourselves comes in at this time may seem to distract us from what is most important, the coming of God into our daily lives, but it need not do so at all, as long as we let it all to become the vehicle of Christ’s drawing near to us and filling our lives. Merton in his book Seasons of Celebration helps us to fully appreciate the grace of this season as he writes:
The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man [humanity], of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problem to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent. (p. 89)
Because of all that is going on at our time with global warming, the Covid pandemic, the polarization happening in Church and society we may begin to wonder where is God in the midst of it all? It is not easy to discern but we can be sure that Christ is right here with us, ready to help us with all our discernment.
As a reminder of this living presence, ready to assist us with whatever we may be struggling with, Merton writes in an earlier in his book Seasons of Celebration:
Advent is the ‘sacrament’ of the presence of God in His world, in the Mystery of Christ at work in History through His Church, preparing in a hidden, obscure way for the final manifestation of His Kingdom… The twelfth century Cistercians place a special emphasis on the coming of Christ by His Spirit to the Christian Person. Like the Rhenish mystics they contemplate His hidden birth in our lives, His Advent here and now in the mystery of prayer and providence. (p. 61)
We cannot be reminded often enough of how the season that has just begun, is the “sacrament” of God’s presence in the world and in each of our lives whatever the struggles may be. This season is a constant reminder of “coming of Christ by His Spirit” into our everyday Christian lives. It is this presence that enables us to live our monastic calling to the full. The busyness going on in the shipping department is the very occasion of Christ’s coming, as well as anything else that may go on in our service to the community.
Everything we do has the potential of being the sacrament of Christ’s life giving presence, of helping us “to unite all things in Christ” as St Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:9-10). Let me draw once more from Merton’s appreciation of our early Cistercian tradition:
The sacramentum which St Bernard finds in Advent is the sacaramentum, the mysterium of which St Paul writes to the Ephesians. It is the ‘sacrament’ (or ‘mystery’) of the divine will, according to the design which it pleased Him to form in Christ, to be realized in the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ. This mystery is the revelation of God Himself in His Incarnate Son. But it is not merely a manifestation of the Divine Perfections, it is the concrete plan for the salvation of men [and women] and the restoration of the whole world in Christ. (p.63)
Christ is making all things new as we allow his presence to penetrate more and more of our daily lives. Despite the crises we see in our world today, God’s Beloved Son is doing something entirely new. So let us enter more confidently into this time of Advent, assured that God is using our very hidden and humble efforts each day, to bring about the transformation of the world in which we live.