Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent 2007: We Wait in Joyful Hope

As the season of Advent began, the liturgy of the first Sunday, our Catholic liturgical new year, set forth "hope" as the theme, the focus, for my 2007 Advent. Timely and relevant, I saw the focus on hope as an invitation from our God to enter into the mystery of Advent by conversing with the idea of hope, Christian hope.

The first thought that came to my mind is that the first Sunday of Advent is, indeed, the festival or the feast of hope. It is the beginning of a new year in the liturgical life of the Church and the first day of the season of joyful waiting for the coming feast of the Incarnation (Christmas).

"Hope" is a word that is probably very common to our daily vocabulary. "I hope there isn't a lot of traffic" or "I hope it's a quiet day at [the office]" or "I hope that the [meeting/seminar/workshop] will go well." Maybe even "I hope [I] win the lottery" or "I hope that I get picked for this or that activity or opportunity." "Hope" in each of these expressions seems to mean the same thing basically, but with the word "hope" there is more. "Hope" is not only a verb that expresses our desiring or wishing but it is also a noun that stands for a virtue that is characteristic of our Christian beliefs and our Christ-life.

One could call this virture "Christian hope," but in some ways I believe the adjective is redundant. "Hope" for the believer is not just a wish, a desire, or dream; "hope" for the believer (and perhaps truly for non-believers as well) in something, someone, bigger in whom we place our trust, our confidence, and in whom we seek to find our peace and our serenity. As I have continued to contemplate "hope" throughout this Advent season, I have been strengthened by a few guiding lights in particular:
  • Hope requires trust.

  • Hope is built on faith.

  • Hope expresses itself out of love.

  • Hope keeps possibilities opens rather closing doors.

  • Hope invites us to surrender to God's will.

  • Hope calls us to be present to one another, accompanying each other as tangible witnesses to
  • The second week of Advent brought us the celebration of Mary's Immaculate Conception. In calling Mary forth to life in the womb of Ann, God also breathed into her soul the endowment of hope which later in life enabled her in faith to offer her "fiat" at the Annunciation.

    The third week enabled us to examine hope from the perspective of the call to "Rejoice unceasingly," a challenge in particular when we are faced with sorrows, struggles, and sadnesses. Yet, as with hope, we are called to understand the virtue more deeply so that from the soul we are able to have hope even when the world around us seems to be crumbling and life as we know it is shaken (challenges) or perhaps even shattered (losses). Now, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we have before us a reminder of Mary's fiat in which with all the faith of her human being she expressed the fullness of hope, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Your Word."

    And now, we are on the brink of the feast of the Incarnation, the birth of Emmanuel, God-is-with-us! While I do not claim to have this relationship with hope perfected, I realize that my Advent gift has been a new understanding of hope, a recognition of hope as a tangible and dynamic dimension of Christian life and the journey to holiness. I have not yet read Pope Benedict's Spe Salvi , but I am looking forward to engaging with and coming to understand and live more deeply the recognition that we are "saved by hope" and the call "to live in joyful hope."


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