An Advent "Aha"
I've attended many a parish mission in my countless years as a "mature" Catholic - always in search of that extra inspiration leading into the Lenten or Advent season. I may have even taken notes on occasion, and seriously wish I had for this one impactful evening (so I could give the presenter his due). I don't remember if he was priest or author - whether or not he sang, or simply spoke. But his words were most definitely music to my ears and the message pierced my heart so deeply that I've recalled it (and tried to expound upon and practice it) every year since.
The message was this: live your Advent with expectant faith.
That word. "Expectant." It cauterized a seeping wound within me, leaving a memorably perfect scar. Most people associate expecting with the healthy glow of impending motherhood, and as someone who's never experienced the joy of pregnancy, that word initially kinda stung. Infertility branded me with a "scarlet I" across my heart - an internal message of unworthiness, a "you don't belong" to this blessed group of women who've pushed life into the world. But the message here was one of total inclusion - that we are all called to solidarity with Mary, especially during this holy season.
Expectant faith is being "pregnant with joy" as we anticipate the celebration of Christmas. I don't know about you, but I have spent many a December swollen with pride, burdened with stress, and laboring over gift lists and tangled tree lights - everything BUT joy filled.
Mary's yes to God resulted in her expecting the Savior of the world. She obeyed God's call and Christ literally grew within her. It is no different for us. Every time we serve others and sacrificially give, even in the smallest of ways, His light within us becomes a touch brighter. We grow Christ within when we say "thy will be done" to God. When we choose patience over pettiness, surrender over strife, and goodness over greed, we partner with Mary in bearing Christ's light to the world.
Expectant faith requires preparation. My "What to Expect When You're Expecting" alternative is an Advent devotional - the spiritual equivalent of advice on healthy diet, stages of development, and encouragement to rest.
I've chosen different authors throughout the years, and am currently enjoying Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K Chesterton. The best (and most challenging) insight thus far refers to praise: "Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul." Yikes. Permanent equals perpetual - as in unending. As in always praising. Even through the trials and tangled tree lights. Even when what we hope for does not come to pass.
Expectant faith frequently includes unmet expectations. Life is often discouraging, sometimes downright depressing. Accidents happen. People get sick. Many have perfectly understandable reasons to dread the holidays.
I'd place a pretty heavy wager on Mary NOT expecting to give birth on the ground among the stench of cow dung and damp sheep's wool. Based on the annunciation alone (Luke 1:32 "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." 34) my expectation would have included heavenly lighting, an actual mattress, at-the-ready royal baby garments, and at least one doctor. But Mary was highly favored for a reason. Praise was most definitely her soul's permanent pulsation - inspiring me to pray for stronger faith amidst any and all expectations (including the unmet ones), and for a heart of endless praise, no matter the dung or disappointments.
Expectant faith is my Advent anthem. May it be an "aha" for you as well. And may we all be obedient servants to the joyful news of the coming King.
Beautiful. I will be pondering "praise should be a permanent pulsation of the soul" for quite some time. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Oh my gosh Laura. You are AMAZING!!! This is absolutely beautiful and inspiring.
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