Happy Advent! I could have said, Happy New Year, since Advent is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year. With Thanksgiving and Black Friday now behind us, the Church urges us to refocus our attention on the season of Advent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas and the birth of our Savior.
I have been looking over the Rule of St. Benedict to see what it says about Advent. Actually it doesn’t say anything about Advent, since at the time of St. Benedict, Advent as a distinct liturgical season was still in a period of development as a time of preparation for Christmas. In any case, I would like to offer the following quote from St. Benedict to reflect upon during this time of Advent. It is from the Prologue to his Holy Rule, verses 8 - 10:
“Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Rom 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls us out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 94:8)”
I especially like the part that says… “It is high time for us to arise from sleep.” It may seem rather strange to you, but as a monk it is difficult for me to get up early. Nevertheless, monks have traditionally gotten up early to pray first of all as the dawn of a new day begins. It is part of the “job description” of being a monk. But much more than that, arising early (while it is still dark!) to pray is a daily reminder from St. Benedict that in the darkness of our own sinfulness, so to speak, we are watching and waiting for the Lord, for the dawn of our salvation. Actually the quote about arising from sleep is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which Benedict freely borrows. The quote from St. Paul is the following: It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom 13, 11b)
So, Advent is rather like getting up early in the morning to pray before the sun rises, watching and waiting for the Lord, for our salvation is near at hand. If you don’t believe me, look at the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent this year, from Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark: “Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…. What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
I will leave you with one suggestion for this Advent as a way of watching and waiting for the Lord in your life, and also as a way of preparing for Christmas. It is quite simple. (No, it is not getting up at 3 AM to be first in line at the local Best Buy or Apple store!) Wake up every morning this Advent fifteen minutes earlier then you normally wake up, get out of bed and in the quiet of your room, first of all pray from deep within your heart for those 15 minutes. (Well, nature’s needs may have to come first). But then read the Gospel of the day, pray the Rosary, do Lectio Divina, or whatever your favorite way of praying is. Your morning coffee, exercise or catching up on the news can wait. The Lord comes first! “It is high time for us to arise from sleep.” The Lord is near at hand!
God’s abundant blessings to you!
Abbot John Brahill, O.S.B. ‘67