I have come to love Advent more and more over the years. This year, with Christmas falling on a Saturday, we have the longest possible Advent season.
On the one hand, it's just such a sweet time of year to have a fresh start of things. You get out your volume one or pars prior breviary; for various reasons it is usually the Advent-Christmas volume of the Liturgy of the Hours that is in the best condition in any given set. Combine that with a new ordo, and it gives you the feeling of fresh start on the natural level, like when you had sharp crayons on the first day of school. The day-to-day liturgical texts and colors change for the first time in what seems like ages.
On a deeper level, though, I find Advent to be among the most mystical times in the year. It is a time for us who stand in between. On the one hand we celebrate as we recall with joy the first coming of Christ, a coming that was humble, and, as we sometimes forget, secret. On the other hand, we look forward with wonder to the second coming of Christ in full and public glory, when he will bring the whole creation to its final destiny.
What's mystical to me about the season is the way in which it seems to emphasize the two comings of Christ in the reverse of their logical and temporal order: The liturgy of the early days, especially the first Sunday, focuses us on the end times, but as we go forward, and certainly by the time we arrive at the 'pre-octave' of the Nativity on December 17, we are fully into a celebration of the first coming of Christ.
We begin at the end times and proceed backwards to the dawn of our salvation in the Nativity of the Lord. We then notice how our own lives are moving in the course of a return from this recollection: the secret intimacies of grace and prayer in our own lives, in which the presence of Christ is conceived and carried in our own hearts, are moving toward a full and public harvest in the communion of the saints in heaven. Christ's movement from his conception by the Virgin to his ministry and passion and final glorification is also the journey of each Christian soul con-formed to Christ by Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Each secret and humble moment of prayer we experience in this life is destined for the final joy of heaven. Prayer is the Lord's Nativity in us, and it will become our Resurrection in Him as well.