27 November 2010

First Sunday of Advent, 2010

Beginnings are such wonderful gifts! Tonight we begin the new Church year and do so with anticipation and hope, the hallmark attitudes of the Christian life. One small candle in the darkness of the hermitage marks this beginning. It is a sign of hope and anticipation of the Christ light that will blaze with the other Advent candles on Christmas as the Word Made Flesh enlightens my own darkness. And it is a sign of fragility, smallness, but also great power as well. The single light of our own hearts is fragile and small when compared to the darkness of our world, and yet that light shines forth for miles signaling warmth, hope, and life.

This year I can't help but see it as an echo of my own baptismal candle -- the beginning of a long and wonderful but often difficult journey from isolation to solitude. The double temporal perspective of today's responsorial psalm marks well the promise I heard and knew that day and know this day as well: [[I rejoiced when they said to me, "We will go up to the house of the Lord." And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.]] When I was baptized (at the age of 17) the Church did it on Saturday afternoons in a darkened Church with just the baptistry lit. (The baptistry was off to the side behind a locked gate so I appreciated showing up to find it unlocked and standing open waiting for me.)

There was no church community present, no real celebration of the awesome initiation taking place there. Just myself, the priest and two friends who served as sponsors or Godparents were there. A single new light of Christ kindled by the Spirit in the darkness, a single candle entrusted to me to keep burning brightly. And yet, the whole Church in heaven and on earth were present that day, just as they are present here tonight in this small hermitage with its single lit Advent candle. And today brings all that and so much more back to me. Beginnings are such wonderful gifts!