Sorry about the very long delay. Here are pictures from October, November, and our summer classes (Since the last post about teaching I've dropped almost all the other activities and am mostly just teaching 6-7 hours of classes each day. It's a blast and I hope you'll enjoy the photos of my girls). A special thanks to everyone who has sent gifts for the girls over the past four months. There are a few pictures of the girls enjoying them, but many of them we saved for Christmas so you'll have to wait until I've put up Christmas pictures (Sorry. And really, they'll be up much faster this time).
Pope Benedict read my post and wrote this homily in response...last Sunday. Enjoy.
Pope Benedict's Advent Vesper Homily
Dear brothers and sisters,
With this evening celebration we enter the liturgical time of Advent. In the biblical reading we just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul invites us to prepare for the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23), keeping ourselves irreproachable, with the grace of God. Paul uses, in fact, the word "coming," in Latin adventus, from whence comes the term Advent.
Let us reflect briefly on the meaning of this word, which can be translated as "presence," "arrival," "coming." In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of a functionary or the visit of a king or emperor to a province. But it could also indicate the coming of the divinity, which goes out of concealment to manifest itself with power, or which is celebrated as present in worship. Christians adopted the word "advent" to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor "province" called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.
The meaning of the expression "advent" includes therefore also that of visitatio, which means simply and properly "visit"; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me. We all experience in daily life having little time for the Lord and little time for ourselves. We end up by being absorbed in "doing." Is it not true that often activity possesses us, that society with its many interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate much time to amusements and leisure of different kinds? Sometimes things "trap" us.
Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an "interior diary" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a "visit," as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?
Another essential element of Advent is expectation, expectation that at the same time is hope. Advent drives us to understand the meaning of time and history as "kairos," as a favorable occasion for our salvation. Jesus illustrated this mysterious reality in many parables: in the account of the servants invited to await the return of their master; in the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom; or in those of the sowing and harvesting. Man, in his life, is in constant waiting: When he is a child he wants to grow, as an adult he tends to his realization and success, growing in age, he aspires to his deserved rest. However the time comes in which he discovers that he has waited too little if, beyond his profession or social position, he has no choice but to wait. Hope marks the path of humanity, but for Christians it is animated by a certainty: The Lord is present in the course of our life, he accompanies us and one day he will also dry our tears. In a not too distant day, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice and peace.
However, there are very different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us live the present intensely, when we already have the gifts of the Lord, let us live it projected to the future, a future full of hope. The Christian Advent thus becomes an occasion to reawaken in ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah awaited for long centuries and born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Coming among us, he has brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and of his salvation. Present among us, he speaks to us in many ways: in sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of creation, which changes in aspect if he is behind it or if it is obfuscated by the mist of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. In turn, we can speak to him, present to him the sufferings that afflict us, impatience, the questions that spring from the heart. We are certain that he always hears us! And if Jesus is present, there is no time deprived of meaning and void. If he is present, we can continue to wait also when others can no longer give us their support, even when the present is exhausting.
Dear friends, Advent is the time of the presence and the expectation of the eternal. Precisely for this reason it is, in a particular way, the time of joy, of an internalized joy, that no suffering can erase. Joy because of the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to walk with confidence. Model and support of this profound joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom the Child Jesus has been given to us. May she, faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace to live this liturgical time vigilant and diligent in waiting. Amen.
Here is a post that doesn't make very much sense because I can't fit my thoughts in to these words. I'm posting it anyway though. Good luck decoding.
A very belated Thanksgiving and happy Liturgical New Year to all! We are in advent, friends! This is is one of my favorite times of year. It's an entire month to be reminded of the good things (uh...the incarnation, anyone?) that have come to ushere on earth and the good things we await (the return of Christ and the fullness of the Kingdom of God, sounds good to me). Wait a minute...those parenthetical celebrations were pretty much the same.
And here it is: the rub.
God has come near.
God is near.
God will come near.
And...my mortal mind is baffled.
I can look back through this blog and see this conflict (yes, I know, for many of you this may be no problem. I wish I could say the same for myself) peeking through some of these posts. Some are celebrating God's presence, and some are stiffling a desire to yell "God! Where are you?!" The Kingdom of God is at hand! wait...it's here...or it's around the corner? Both. God has come down from heaven in the form of an infant, the weakest amongst us, to teach us to live and love. He became the pure lamb on which our sin could be laid to restore us to friendship with God. He rose from the grave and conquered death so that we could praise Him through eternity. Go to mass and savor every word and gesture and you (hopefully) will be reminded of the astounding gift of God's presence on earth in Jesus Christ. And yet...the world is still waiting. Injustice, hunger, disease, death, sorrow, fear, and pain are everywhere. The earth is still waiting for the fulfillment of God's reign. He rules the heavens. He rules our hearts. He is here. When will he rule the earth? When will we, with sincerity and unanimity, ask Him to?
I played with a little girl today. We held hands and twirled in a circle and giggled and chattered in Spanish. The Kingdom of God is at hand. She was sitting, filthy and hot and tired, in the street, where she lives with her siblings, and at first came over only to beg me to share my lunch. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
God is here, little one. Rejoice! God is coming, little one. Rejoice!
Sometimes I'm filled with hope and joy and an acute awareness of just how close God is. And sometimes I sound like Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky): "I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered, simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when every one suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer."
For everyone as impatient as I am, I wish I could give you the solution, the magical pearl of wisdom that will soothe your (and my) frustration, but you're not going to find it here. God has to do that work in each of us.
And so we have advent: the time of year that reminds me to humble my heart and wait with patience and hope rather than irritation and despair. Ivan also tells his brother Alyosha, in his story The Grand Inquisitor, that man gives up his freedom in exchange for the bread of the world because he is too impatient to await the bread of life. This alone is reason enough to learn patience, but this eagerness should not be abandoned either. Ivan reminds us that we must await the bread of heaven, but that the world in front of us has value to. I'm positive that God agrees, why else would Jesus have become man to live amongst us on the earth? The majority of the readings during advent are about waiting, but never about passivity. Jesus talks to us about the end times, about the coming of God, about His return. Basically, he reminds us that His work is not done. And neither is ours. We are told to be vigilant and prepare ourselves and the world for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to arrive. We are not passive recipients. The reign of God is a present reality because it is present in us as we await its completion. God has come in to the world through the incarnation, liberated us from sin and death, and continues to dwell among us. But we're still waiting.
With hope for the world to come, we wait. And With joy for the world that God has come to, we celebrate. Happy advent.