Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcoming and Living Through the Season of Advent

As members of the Roman Catholic Church, we are invited to another year of service and living out the commandments of God through his son Jesus Christ. We define Advent, as per Newadvent.org, as the season which begins the Liturgical year. We quote:

During this time the faithful are admonished
  • to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
  • thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
  • thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

In many ways, Advent, if we are going to take to heart the implications and the traditions which are embedded in Catholic faith, is not at all characterized by the highly-materialisti c, highly-consumptive and highly-promiscuous (I will justify the usage of such words) sashaying and bacchanalia of wastage and consumption that almost if not all our media advertisements and shopping malls have led us to believe. Advent, in a sense, is not supposed to be about a feast: it is about trembling, about anxiety, about an urgency to reform one's life in light of being a resident of the world's "valley of tears." The onslaught of Christmas is not about the reindeers, it is not about Saint Nicholas (who by the way was already stricken off the Calendar of Saints), it is not about the mistletoes where all our hormanal imbalances are let loose, it is ESPECIALLY NOT ABOUT GIFTS, but about looking at how destitute our lives, whether we be materially sufficient, overflowing, or lacking, without the grace of God moving us into this Earthly existence.

To observe Advent, in a sense, is not at all to be deluded into memories of childhood innocence nor an excuse to affluence. In fact, we are invited to put away our vanities, our desires, and try looking at what we have done to merit being part of the Holy Catholic Church. The I, as invited to participate in Advent, should not find relaxation in Advent from the cyclical and day-to-day activities. In fact, Advent should be an evaluative and formative period: looking back at how we fared as Christians, what we have accomplished doing, where we have failed or faltered, and what could be done to remedy them and/or to go further what we have accomplished.

It is not surprising, given our concupiscence, that we shall find in most of our actions failures to reach out and live out what Christ really means and asks us to be. But this should not discourage us. We should always strive to improve, labor, work and act (the last three words having a lot of differences as Hannah Arendt, a Jew, in her book The Human Condition has outlined; the first for sustenance, the second for utility, and the third for community-building) . It is a tiring and demanding experience, yes, but then again salvation from our sinful condition was never easy to begin with. St. Augustine was not alien to it and wholly embraced it, as in this paraphrase by Bukas Palad:

Kay tagal bago Kita minahal
Gandang sinauna at sariwa
Akong nilikha Mo, uuwi rin sa 'Yo
Ako'y papayapa lamang sa piling Mo

But I do not, at all, attempt to depress the living daylights out of everyone with what I am saying. We do acknowledge our Lord Jesus's pronouncement himself that our laboring should be done with a smile and joyful praise to God. But the danger of always of thinking about what is joyful in the Catholic life might blind us to the necessary pains and sacrifices it entails, as what most of us who are still very much stunted in the Faith are prone to be. In seeking the joys and pleasures of life, we have traded off the road less traveled but should be for salvation and righteousness. There must be balance, indeed. We must remember, as John 3:16 immortally reminds us that God sent his only begotten son to save us and grant us eternal life. Therefore, in the same way we shall prepare all our gifts to our beloveds, we should also prepare ourselves for the accounting of Christ with regards to our duties as our brothers' and sisters' keepers.

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