N A FEW DAYS, we begin Advent. I would imagine that you, dear reader, like me, are not as ready to enter this season as one might ideally like to be. We are, as usual, preoccupied with a lot of everyday concerns, some of them quite trivial and others momentous. We are (perhaps all too willingly) subject to the hegemony of secular time, of work time, recreation time, the shifting back and forth between labor and rest that is characteristic of fallen man. The liturgy is quietly calling us out of ourselves, out of our time and place, into a different story—a story that is actually more our own than the one that our society, our culture, weaves around us.
This, I think, is what Benedict XVI was getting at some years ago when he preached, at Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent:
We all have the experience, in our daily life, of having little time for the Lord and little time even for ourselves. One winds up absorbed by ‘doing’. Isn’t it perhaps true that often it is exactly activity that possesses us, society with its multiple interests that monopolizes our attention? Isn’t it perhaps true that one dedicates lots of time to diversions and amusements of different kinds? … Advent invites us to stand in silence in order to understand a presence. … How often God causes us to perceive something of His love!
“Advent invites us to stand in silence in order to understand a presence.” How true! The presence of the Lord in any Catholic Church: think of it! There He is, in the tabernacle, in the most Blessed Sacrament, He is really, truly, substantially present. He is present, but we are not present; as Augustine says, He is within, but I am without. O sweet and sacred silence—how much we need you! What a boon you confer upon us! You take our agitated and fragmented self, and gently invite it back to unity, simplicity, peace. The Prince of Peace: He is present, ready to be understood by those who allow themselves to be overtaken by silence.
AINT JOSEPH MIGHT BE CONSIDERED our particular patron in this Advent summons to silence. In his Angelus address on December 18, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said this about Joseph:
His silence is permeated with the contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of total availability to the divine will. In other words, the silence of St. Joseph does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart, and that guides each of his thoughts and actions. A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, guard the Word of God, known through sacred Scripture, comparing it continually to the events of the life of Jesus; a silence interwoven with constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of adoration of his holy will and of boundless confidence in his providence. It is not exaggerated to say that Jesus will learn—on a human level—precisely from “father” Joseph this intense interior life, which is the condition of authentic righteousness, the “interior righteousness,” which one day he will teach to his disciples (cf. Matthew 5:20). Let’s allow ourselves to be “infected” by the silence of St. Joseph! It is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God. In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.
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