“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man’ coming in the clouds… then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky”. (Mk 13:26-27)
Advent (only two weeks away) is not only a season of preparation for the arrival of Christmas; it is another annual opportunity to receive the kingdom of heaven as a child (Mt 18:3). We say “another” because how many Advents have passed us by without any burst of youthful, animated expectation. To understand Advent one must understand the heart of a child which has less to do with preparation and all to do with expectation.
Adults prepare for things. This is understandable since they are the ones most responsible for final outcomes. In this very busy day and age there are always activities to be started and finished. Even when the expectation of a vacation comes along, it still requires preparation; and it’s the adults who do the preparing.
Young children are not much for preparation (their parents are the ones who see to all that stuff). However, children are all about expectation. Their expectation can also be tireless like when they find fun in something their father did and expect it to be done over and over again: “Do it again, Daddy!” To them it’s been done and only needs to be done again. No consideration or preparation is necessary.
Catholic adults need an injection of expectation into their lives. We are not speaking of earthly expectation which is always bounded. Expectation, as any small child can tell you, must be boundless. What so many adults do not realize is that they will never find happiness in earthly expectations because these always require or get bound up in earthly preparations. Nor can the adult necessarily return to the unsullied expectation of a child. His only chance of reviving expectation is through prayerful contemplation. Advent is a time and place for that revival.
As we begin our march toward Advent, let us meditate on beautiful art. Let us today think on the image we have placed on our bulletin cover for this 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. This is a work by the 19th century American master, Winslow Homer, entitled Song of the Lark. Homer was no mere purveyor of insincere realism. He is the American answer to Jean-Francois Millet, yet thoroughly New England in style. Homer was born in Boston, raised in what was once rural Cambridge, and was the leading landscape and seascape painter of his time.
In our image we do not see the lark; neither does the young farmer who is depicted. He stands there in a posture of honor with sickle at his side and hat off, listening, as in a moment of reverence. For us this image serves as an allegory; for the lark, which in art is emblematic of daybreak, is also symbolic of Christ, the bringer of the new dawn of hope (Lk 1:78-79).
In our farmer we find one who has given up being active so as to be contemplative. He is not preparing. He is anticipating. This is where we need to be this Advent season: looking heavenward in quiet, joyful, interior, expectation, forsaking all preparation, for a time.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services