December 2, 2008

Holiday Blues

Luke 10:23-24:

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

It's a commonplace to hear us Catholics complain about how the world around us skips Advent and goes straight to Christmas, and then gives up on the Christmas season after one day. I don't think the world celebrates Christmas at all, but observes the pagan festival of Yule, but that's another rant.

More and more I experience all of the lights, decorations, sales, and trite songs as a form of denial. In ministry you learn quickly that this is a very hard time of year for a lot of people. The dark days make people blue. Many anniversaries of death are recalled. Family conflicts flare up.

The Advent season speaks to this spiritual condition. It is an invitation to enter into the dark places of our hearts and find the longing for God, the misinterpretation of which is the cause of so much of our misery in the first place. Advent invites us to give up on the failed strategy of drowning our alienation and despair with bright lights and noise, and invites us to seek the single Light that desires to be born into our personal darkness.


4narnia said...

great post, Fr. C! i agree with a lot of what you say about "holiday blues." we, as Catholic Christians, should really just try to enjoy the season of advent and not get caught up in the way the world around us gets caught up in everything else that extinguishes that "Single Light" - JESUS, who wants to born to us in new and personal ways. somewhere in Scripture (maybe you can remind us, Fr. C, where this passage is) it says: "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." or is this from a hymn? a blessed Advent to all - let Jesus shine through the darkness! PEACE!
tara t

Brother Charles said...

Isaiah, chapter 9, but burned into the religious experience of every Catholic by Dan Schutte's, "City of God."

ben in denver said...

Last year I gave up on worrying about holding off Christmas until the end of Advent. Despite the excesses of our culture and our sliding into paganism, there is stil a great deal of actual Christianity involved in the celebration of Christmas and these weeks of anticipation for a large number of people. Our churches, and those of our seperated brothers and sisters still fill up beyond capacity at Christmas, and while I firmly and resolutely believe that these "Christmas Christians" need to be called to a deeper conversion, and that they need to come nto a closer relationship with the Church, I have also come to beleive that I should not waste the opportunity to live for these few weeks in a deeper communion with them. I have given up on lamenting that by the time I'm ready to celebrate Christmas, that my neighbors have moved on to the decadence of New Years Eve and the austerity of New Years Day. Instead, I share with them what I can of the faith that I live in these few weeks when they are the most open to it. I am glad that so many who do not understand what Christmas is get so excited about it. I am glad of the opportunity to send my poor pagan father, a religious card in this season. I find an occaision for happiness, that while he really does celebrate a pagan solstice, he still insists on calling it Christmas. It reminds me that God will be faithful to the promise He has made to the baptized.

I have come to see the modern American observance of Advent as not necessisarily in conflict with the deeper meaning of the season. In so many ways ours is a culture asleep. We are asleep to sin and our need for salvation. In these few weeks some of our neighbors come closer to waking up. Perhaps they will be nicer to, or more welcoming of children. Perhaps they will donate to their neighbors in need or buy a gift for a stanger or even volunteer to serve a meal to the poor.

The trials you speak of can also help people to wake up. Death is the ultimate reminder of the reality and consequences of sin. Family conflicts always call to mind Cain and Abel. Ultimately, those times in my life when I have been the most dispairing showed me my own need for salvation and lead me to the Church.

Advent has usually been very diffucult for me and my family. Many times God has helped me so that my plea is sincere when I cry, "rorate coeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum." I urgently await his resopnse, "consolamini, consolamini, popule meus: cito veniet salus tua." Sometimes I hear His response in between the measures, when I hear Bing Crosby sining "White Christmas," or Judy Garland singing "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

Brother Charles said...

Beautiful, Ben. In my preaching these days I'll be borrowing some of the Lord's optimism that he has placed in your spirit, but not without the thanksgiving of prayer. Be well.

Matt G. said...

Elysa said...

I'm new to your blog and relatively new to Advent. As an evangelical, non-Catholic (Southern Baptist), I didn't even begin to know what Advent was til I married my husband, a new Christian who was a member of a Presbyterian church and was very interested in church history. As we've walked out our journey of faith together over the last 18 years, God has been blessing us with many wonderful Catholic and Orthodox friends. We are learning so many things from them. One that I'm just now beginning to appreciate is why Advent might just be something very important that I need to include in my life and the life of my family. We've tinkered around with observing it a couple of seasons, but never really been able to get the full meaning of it.

Thanks for your blog post and for the comments of your readers. This is something I need to ponder and ask the Father about.

I will be sharing your thoughts at my blog and if it's alright, also the response of Ben in Denver.

Brother Charles said...

It's good to meet you Elysa--you sure have a lot of blogs to check out! May God bless you and your family at this special time.