Advent: A season of waiting

Sister Marcia Ziska, OSB

Editor's note: Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica write a weekly column titled "View from the Mount" in our hometown newspaper, the Atchison Globe. this column appeared in the Nov. 19 edition of the Globe.

The liturgical season of Advent, a time of waiting, anticipation, and preparation, is just one week away.

This season invites us to remember the hope and promise of salvation. Each year, an invitation is extended to all Christians to prepare and welcome the Christ child whose coming we await on Christmas Day. As a child, I recall my mother fixing the Advent wreath with its four candles, three purple and one pink, and cutting fresh evergreens to adorn the circular base.

Each week, an additional candle was lit and the appropriate prayers were recited as we gathered nightly around the supper table. As I remember, the youngest child, the oldest child and both parents took their turn lighting the candles as the time of Christmas drew near.

The Mount has a similar tradition of lighting the Advent wreath. The purple candles have been replaced by navy blue. The pink candle lit during the third week on Gaudete (Latin for rejoice) Sunday, symbolizes our waiting is half over and hearts rejoice. In this season of expectancy, the wreath provides a focal point of reflection and contemplation. This time of waiting asks us to be patient, to experience the waiting as sacred. While much of society is into Christmas decorating and attending office parties, I long for a slower pace and time set apart to seek the quiet and solitude that the season and its scripture provides.

While many are caught up in the Black Friday bargains and the long lines ofshopping, the sisters get excited about another pre-Advent tradition taking place in the monastery. On the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, the sisters gather with our monastic elders in Dooley and sing a collection of favorite Advent songs: “O Come, Divine Messiah,” “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” to name a few. We sing with gusto, “Lead us to your light, lead us out of darkness, Lead us to your light, Come, Jesus, come,” begging God to transform the darkness of our world with the Light of Christ. The song-fest concludes with a pie festival, a sampling of over two dozen pies made by the sisters.

As our world and Christians in particular stand at the threshold of yet another Advent, the scriptures invite us to “come away to a deserted place and rest a while.” I invite you to spend some additional time in silence, to journey with Mary who is pregnant with the child Jesus. And in the words of Caryll Houselander, “To join your heart with hers, growing pregnant with God together. Make space within yourself to grow large with the abundance of God’s favor. Make this a time to fill your lungs deeply with God so that you can breathe Christ into the world.”

The Sophia Center is offering an Advent retreat Dec. 2-3 to help prepare for this new liturgical season. Through the inspiration of Ruth Haley Barton’s book, “Sacred Rhythms,” this retreat will help those in attendance to explore their inner desires for a deeper relationship with God. God waits patiently and actually longs for you and me to turn our hearts toward the One who called us into being. The season of Advent is a time to begin anew in furthering this process. It is a time for each of us to identify the longings of our heart. This retreat may provide an opportunity for you to set new priorities, to continue the journey of becoming more Christ-like. May we use this time well in welcoming this gift: Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.