Ever since I converted to the Christian Catholic faith, I have loved this season of Advent. And have written before about my love for this season. But this Advent, which is ending the second decade of the twenty-first century, feels different. More urgent.
The phrase "the shaking reality of Advent" is not mine, but belongs to Jesuit Priest and martyr, Alfred Delp. A man who chose not to close his eyes to the growing evil around him, Father Delp was the Rector of St. Georg Church in Munich and an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. Falsely accused of conspiring against Hitler, Fr. Delp was arrested in 1944, imprisoned, tortured, and executed on February 2, 1945.
His phrase does not conjure images of jingle bells or merriment; he doesn't intend them to. Instead, the shaking reality of advent inspires fear and trembling-even awe- if we but pause, close our eyes, and let the Truth pierce through the myriad distractions, lies, and evil which surround us.
Although written over eighty years ago, these words of Father Delp’s sear our psyches:
The Advent message comes out of our encounter with God, with the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes – so that in the end the entire world shall be shaken. The fact that the son of man shall come again is more than a historic prophecy; it is also a decree that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. If we are inwardly inert, incapable of being genuinely moved, if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God himself will intervene in world events. He will teach us what it means to be placed in turmoil and to be inwardly stirred. Then the great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked – or whether we will continue to see thousands of things that we know should not be and must not be and yet remain hardened to them. In how many ways have we become indifferent and used to things that ought not to be?
And our conscience.
While at daily Mass last week, the presiding priest Father Alphonse woke me up.
“These things we see happening in the Church are not external to us! As if they are happening to people unknown and therefore feel indifferent to.”
He captured precisely the way I have been feeling and acting. Although long ago, I stopped watching the news, social media posts are impossible to ignore for someone who spends her time as a writer. When seeing the captions and images that cannot be overlooked while writing on my laptop, I closed my eyes, said a prayer and went on with my work.
“No! We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we must make reparation.”
Instantly, I knew the truth of what he said and felt immensely grateful that he had the courage and love to say it. As if I could hear a voice whispering in my ear, "Wake up, Lin!"
Confession will be more frequent during these four weeks. Fast times will be lengthened and prayer more fervent. Doing so will matter-in some small way-just as these words written from Nazi Germany’s Tegel Prison promise:
Being shocked, however, out of our pathetic complacency is only part of Advent. There is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened – these are necessary for Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of “coming to,” in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth reach us. These threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have.
We must not shy away from Advent thoughts of this kind. We must let our inner eye see and our hearts range far. Then we will encounter both the seriousness of Advent and its blessings in a different way. We will, if we would but listen, hear the message calling out to us to cheer us, to console us, and to uplift us.