The year begins with expectation, longing for the Coming, a season pregnant with desire. But when the wreath is hung, the candles lit, the lectionary page turned, do we forget where we have been? In our haste to welcome new beginnings, do we sweep away the memory of our glorious end? Do we recall that only weeks ago, we sang of triumph and a King?
Much ink has been spilled about the Lost Season of Advent. How must we keep these Advent days, so that their promise of Christ’s coming does not slip through our grasp? – as if days could be kept at all, instead of hurtling inevitably into the void of the past. As if Christ, when He reaches out for us, could be lost by a slip of our fingers.
Take heart, all ye who watch and wait. Christmas will come. The Child will be born and, on Good Friday, He will die. At Easter, He will rise, and at Ascension, He will go to the Father. The Spirit will come at Pentecost, and then we will we return to the middle of the story, to listen with our newly sanctified ears to the words of His teachings. Next year, it will begin again: birth, death, and resurrection, all of which must take place before we attempt the work of understanding. But where does it end?
With expectation and the coming of a King.
If we find it hard to partake of Advent, it is because–like so much of Truth–it is nonsense. We anticipate the coming of a Savior who is already here. Advent is a bridge from Triumph into Triumph, a two-way street of victory. The King is in the cradle, the cradle in the King. Every year, we stand between them, suspended in a moment of already that reminds us we are still caught up in not yet.
What, then, are we Advent pilgrims to do? A bridge is not a destination. It is a passage that links greater mysteries. As we walk our Advent road, perhaps we ought to let go of the “keeping” and do instead what watchful people do: observe. Advent asks us to open our hearts and minds and every sense we have to the blessings God has placed along our path. Only then can we experience Christmas not as a holiday or an historical event, but as a gift that is poured out upon the world in every age, into every heart that loves.
In the genius of our Catholic liturgy, we end where we began, begin where we have ended, and both are with these words: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” It is no accident that the First Sunday of Advent, Year A and the Feast of Christ the King, Year C–the first and last Sundays of the lectionary cycle–both enlighten us with the words of Psalm 122. We travel our life’s pilgrimage in circles, forever spiraling across the same hallowed ground. When we finally arrive, we say again, “Let us go.” Our earthly calling is the journey, its fulfillment always coming, though it is always here, and each circuit of the holy path bears new and richer fruit.
Do not weep for Lost Advent. Every season is lost when the sun sets. Neither should we fear that Christmas comes too soon. How can the joy of heaven be untimely? Weep, instead, for those who have never rushed headlong across the bridge, from glory into glory, joy into more joy. Then dry your tears and go rejoicing into the eternal house of our timeless Lord.