Monday, November 30, 2009
HAPPY NEW YEAR
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. It also signals our preparation for Christmas. In the Missionary Cenacle we say that preparation for the next Christmas begins on Christmas Day! Our founder, Father Judge, had such an appreciation for the mystery of the Incarnation, God taking on our human nature, that he felt this mystery should never be far from our minds and hearts.
I remember my first Advent in Mexico. It was on the coastal area of the State of Guerrero. The average temperature was 115F. This was quite a shock for a missionary who grew up in mountain area of Pennsylvania where you could count on the first snowfall by the end of October! One of the young priests was giving an Advent Day of Reflection for the priests, religious and pastoral workers of the area. He talked about our preparation for Christmas and how we might want to "clean up" the stable of our heart. This became a very real image for Advent. One of our chapels which also served as a catechetical center was perhaps a tropical version of a stable. Donkeys and other animals congregated there on a regular basis. When we arrived for our meetings with catechists or children or to prepare for Mass, the donkeys had to be whisked away and "brooms" which were made for this type of cleanup were put to work. If a Mass were going to be celebrated, people brought flowers and hung plants, the altar was scoured and cleaned, and freshly starched linens were placed on it. Gradually, people who were so deeply faith filled arrived with all the reverence you might see in a cathedral laden with stain glass windows. At the Consecration people knelt on the sometimes muddy ground. Only the best welcome for their Lord and Savior.
Father Pedro urged us to prepare the stable of our hearts which sometimes contains things far more unpleasant than we found in our tropical "stable" turned into chapel, etc. Things like resentments, bitterness, jealousy, acedia, a letting go of our enthusiasm and joy that can lead us down a slippery slope to sloth and despair, need to be swept away and replaced with things that fill a heart with a royal welcome. If we don't know what needs to be swept out of the stable of our hearts, and what needs to placed there, a prayerful, vigilant Advent will do this. Actually, it is the only way.
I pray for each one of us hearts transformed into cathedrals of welcome this Christmas.
Happy New Year. Happy and blessed Advent.