December 17, 2011

Sapida Scientia

December 17 is one of those hinge days in the Church's prayer; the season of Advent turns from the mystical and second comings of Christ to the proximate preparation for the coming commemoration of the Lord's Nativity. The beloved 'O antiphons' appear in their traditional place around the Magnificat at Vespers and are also used as the alleluia verse at Mass. The second Advent preface, an option on the third Sunday, now takes over until the vigil Mass of Christmas.

It's a liturgical hinge not unlike the one between the fourth and fifth weeks of Lent. Though Passiontide isn't named as a season or moment in the modern Roman rite, you will notice that it's still there if you pay close attention to changes in the preface at Mass and to the cycles of texts in the Liturgy of the Hours.

It gets me praying as best as I can in the Advent spirit. The season speaks to me in a basic way, as one who has known God as just that: adventitious. God arrived in my life; he slowly appeared along the way as some sort of mysterious character. Mysterious and even so subtle as to be exasperating sometimes, but still compelling enough to make me want to organize my life around his advent.

I guess I've been thinking about some of this stuff as I approach some milestones in the coming year. This winter I'll be forty years old. In the summer I'll be twenty years baptized. Over these years my life has come to be consumed--and if it were only more consumed!--with this mysterious 'God' who has made this adventitious appearance in my life. The defining elements and contours of my life now,  my celibacy, my prayer, my Franciscanism, my priesthood, all of these cluster around my stumbling attempts to understand what has happened to me in this experience, and how I might learn to be both a good host for it and also mirror its goodness and trustworthiness to others.

At certain points in the journey I've been a pretty good host for this adventitious Guest. At other times I have avoided Him, or distracted myself from interior hospitality with all sorts of trifles, inanities and excuses. And sometimes these were even made out of religion. But the good news of Christmas is that the Word, proceeding forth from the Father from all eternity, is the tasty Wisdom who wills to become flesh precisely in the world where there is no room for Him.

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