7 Dec 2010
Advent Reflections - What does Advent mean to me?
Advent is a time of waiting, but what kind of waiting? Not a distracted, impatient waiting but an attentive, hopeful and joyful one. While it is true that the Gospel reading (Mt 24:37-44) talks of deluge and destruction and other related images, it does so only to call us to “pay attention,” to be vigilant, in order to be ready when the Son of Man comes.
All the situations presented in the reading refer to the daily routine of life – eating, drinking, marrying, reproducing, working, etc. They are no different from the tasks, big and small, that we carry out here and now. The invitation though is not that we stop doing these things but to give our lives a quality of “presence,” of “conscious attention,” that amidst all these, we can try to sense the presence of Someone who is about to come (or more exactly, Someone special who is already here!) right within the trivialities of our daily lives.
Hence, in this first week of Advent, we can “spice up” our routinary lives by practicing “presence” which concretely means “listening, being attentive, waiting in prayer, silence.”
For me, this also means “being led” because the truth is, we are not only the one waiting or searching. It is the Lord who is actually waiting for us, knocking at the doors of our hearts all the time and asking us to pay attention to his presence. It is enough for us to say, "here I am, Lord; lead me..."
The prayer-poem-music that accompanies me in this practice of presence is Blessed John Henry Newman’s “Lead Kindly Light,” one of my favorite prayer-song since the time of my novitiate. Let me share with you the text here.
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.
My favorite musical arrangement of the poem is the one of John B. Dykes, entitled Lux Benigna. Let me sing it to you here, with the hope that this may become the song of your heart this Advent as you await our Lord’s coming.