I am not a big fan of Christmas. I confess I do not like Santa Claus or fruitcake. I loathe Jingle Bells and the rampant commercialism of a season that in our secular world seems dedicated to running up credit card bills buying things we don't need and may not even want. I have fantasized about going somewhere far off in the east, like a small village in Bali or Thailand, where I could experience the real meaning of Christmas by finding beauty and holiness in the humblest of places. But Advent is a season I love. The four weeks leading up to my least favorite holiday are something profoundly deep and true and meaningful for me. It is a season about waiting, longing and mystery- and surrendering to finding God where you least expect it.
Advent is the time when the Christian liturgical calendar starts anew, and each year I take it as an invitation to enlarge my own capacity for beholding beauty- which is what Dante tells us Heaven is all about. The themes for the church readings for the season are as follows- and good advice for contemplation, no matter what your religious orientation:
Don't fall asleep to your life!
Straighten your path!
Wait, watch and listen!
And ponder the mystery in your heart.
In the days to come, I will be sharing some of my favorite poems, pieces of art and works of music that speak to the eternal themes of Advent . It is "a mete and right thing so to do" to begin with TS Eliot. This is from The Four Quartets, the poem that saved my life as a teenager:
I said to my soul, be still
And wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.
And wait without love,
For love would be love for the wrong thing.
There is yet faith,
But the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.
And wait without thought,
For you are not ready for thought.
So the darkness shall be the light
And the stillness, the dancing.