Make this an Advent of Presence by balancing ‘to do’ with the need ‘to be’
My Vocation is Love l Lindsey Weishar
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate Advent not merely as a countdown to Christmas but as a season all its own. I love the strain of mystery that permeates these four weeks, the hopeful expectancy displayed in the daily readings, and that each Sunday we mark with lighted candle this movement toward celebration and gratitude for our Lord at Christmas.
As Advent approached this year, I considered what I could do to help me enter in to this compact season, to better navigate the traditional busyness of December. But two homilies for the first week of Advent have made me reconsider this approach.
Don’t get me wrong. Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season, and like Lent, there is a tradition in Advent of taking on practices that draw us closer to God and help us better recognize his love. So, the desire to take on Advent practices is good. The potential problem is that I first considered what I could do, not how I am being called to be in my relationship with God and others.
MAKE ROOM FOR PERSONAL ENCOUNTER
I heard this theme of presence both in Father Andru O’Brien’s homily at St. Matthew in Champaign this past Sunday and in Father Mike Schmitz’s (among other places, Father Mike’s homilies can be found on the Hallow app). Father O’Brien spoke of the temptation to take on too many practices, to get overwhelmed, and then to abandon our practices because we couldn’t keep up our practices throughout the Advent season.
This Advent, I’d like to challenge readers, and myself foremost, to practice the art of presence, that is, entering into prayer, encounters with others, and our daily tasks with our whole selves. . . . The attempt to approach God, others, and ourselves undivided by the desire to do more is a beautiful gift we can give the newborn King.
Growing up in this society in particular, it’s easy to see that it’s most culturally valuable to do, to be “productive,” to multitask. And sometimes this multitasking takes the form of where I “live” in my thoughts. I may be completing a task for my day job and also incessantly worrying about a task I need to do later or about something that happened in the past. To counter how tiring such multitasking really is, I may decide to watch a YouTube video while doing something else, like washing dishes or getting ready for bed. The result — exhaustion and lack of presence.
This Advent, I’d like to challenge readers, and myself foremost, to practice the art of presence, that is, entering into prayer, encounters with others, and our daily tasks with our whole selves. This doesn’t mean there won’t be distractions, but the attempt to approach God, others, and ourselves undivided by the desire to do more is a beautiful gift we can give the newborn King.
BE AT REST IN HIM
The why behind an Advent of presence is beautifully expressed in a poem by Pope St. John Paul II called “Melancholic.” The person in this poem desires to learn how to “Not to return again and again, / but to walk on at the daily pace of hours.” The result of slowly becoming free from this tendency toward worried rumination is “to be more with Him, / more with Him, not merely with oneself” and ultimately to “Push aside the terror of things to be done, / may a simple act be enough.” This is a call to be at rest in him.
So how do we go about cultivating this abiding presence before God and others? Father O’Brien encouraged “simple acts,” to take each of the weeks of Advent day by day, to perhaps choose one practice (or one different practice for each week of Advent). Father Mike invited his congregation to more frequently spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. I want to uncouple some of my activities (YouTube and dishes, podcasts and dinner), to invite more silence into my life this Advent.
As we reflect on how to “be more with Him” this Advent, my prayer is that we allow our being to be uncomplicated and fitted to our state in life and personal vocations. I’m reminded of the profound example of the shepherds, who, in tending to their flocks on Christmas night, were also present to receive the wondrous message of Christ’s birth.
As you reflect on your relationship with God, what do you need? How can you and God meet each other in this place of need? Let him help you shape the gift of your presence. To be even a bit more attentive to his presence on Christmas Day will be an Advent well lived.
LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at email@example.com.