The Advent season is upon us, full of hope and anticipation. Anticipation of Christ’s birth. Hope for the world. It is a time full of small, quiet joys: the sounds of carols, the smell of evergreen, the glimmer of candles. It is only fitting that our virtue of the month is hope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1817-1818, 1820) defines hope as the virtue by which we desire, “Eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit… Buoyed by hope, man is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity… Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer.” These sentiments perfectly capture the inexpressible kernel of this virtue-- of Advent. Hope surpasses common struggles and disappointments; it is fed by, and takes form in, prayer.
I see this everyday in our students. So many have reason to doubt; they struggle with burdens large and small. It might be a quiz upon challenging, new material, or a friend they yearn to reach out to, or a decision about future choices. They face so many temptations and unknowns each day. But yet with prayer… they hope. Prayer in the form of songs sung in preparation for Lessons and Carols. Prayers each morning as their class begins another day together. Prayers before lunch, offering thanks to God. Prayers during weekly Mass. Prayers as we say the Rosary as a family each week. Prayers uttered in the silence of their hearts. “Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer.”
During Advent my pastor Fr. Brian frequently draws from the classic narrative poem, A Woman Wrapped in Silence (John Lynch). Its beautiful words and phrases recount the story of salvation from Mary’s perspective. The hope is palpable in each line, especially shown in these pertaining to Christ’s birth:
Wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.
Her first gift them to Him, and His first witness
To the ways of earth, the first of tribute,
And the gesture that began the long
Fulfillment was a simple care she brought
To Him, not as a creature comes to stoop,
But as a mother bends to love. We know
No more than this, and what exchange beyond
Lies gathered to the spaces of her heart
To turn forever there, inviolate…
She knelt and held him close against her heart,
And in the midnight adoration fused
With human love, and was not separate. (p.44-45)
I am so grateful for this virtue. For the way our students witness to one another and embody it each day. Advent truly is the season of hope.
Yours Truly in Christ,