Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Happy new year! It seems right that we end the last year with Thanksgiving, the moment that we come to consider what we have and are thankful for as we step into the new year through the lens of the Advent Season.
Thankfulness is the step in the spiritual life that has to take place before real growth begins. Sometimes people say they get “stuck” and don’t know why they can’t seem to move forward, a block can happen on any level of life, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. It sometimes happens because a person feels they didn’t get what they wanted, or maybe are angry because someone else got more. Anger is a big blocker. Learning to be grateful for whatever it is—a little or a lot—is often the key to renewal and a deep abiding peace that everyone in the world is seeking.
We start with one light in the darkness as the metaphor of this path from darkness of a world without a Savior to a brilliant light in the presence of God-with-us at the birth of Jesus. A Way. From the dangerous darkness of ignorance to the clarity of Truth incarnate. From no hope to founded faith. A Truth. The light grows almost mperceptibly at first, like a seed in the earth, a grace unrecognized that goes to work and brings us to discover that we are no longer alone. Here there is Love.
There is a remedy to the darkness, an answer to the ignorance and loneliness that can paralyze entire cultures. There is a relationship that changes lives and transforms our night into brightest day.
As I was thinking about this one Advent candle, I realized that I was comparing it to the one great candle that is for us the symbol of new life. We light that candle in that moment of fulfillment, the resurrection of Jesus at the Easter Vigil. At that moment the suffering and death which we have caused with our lives becomes a new reality, a chance for us to change with the silent grace of the Cross. As we venerate the Light of Christ, we realize that the path starts Today, God’s grace penetrates the darkness of our world and begins the process of transformation.
I have taken some of the words of the Easter Exsultet, the ancient proclamation which is chanted at the Vigil Mass in veneration of this Light, and made it a prayer for us at this beginning of time, the first Sunday of Advent:
Lord, This is our night, as when you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea. This is our night as when your pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is our night when, even now, throughout the world, you set believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to your holy ones.
This is our night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the grave. Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son! O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour when Christ rises from the dead!
This is our night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
With your sanctifying power take our night: dispel wickedness, wash faults away, restore innocence to the fallen and joy to mourners, drive out hatred, foster concord, and bring down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept our candle, a sign of our solemn offering. Bring us your Peace.
We don’t know what to do with the darkness of our world but, like the growing light of the season of Advent, we start with only a spark of grace and God’s plan grows in us. God’s plan isn’t a concept or an idea for us to agree or disagree with. It is a real plan being revealed in history and put into action with the light of grace that has been placed in your our hearts, yours and mine. Our names are literally written into this plan to be a part of the dispelling of night to be transformed by the light of his day, brighter than the sun, a path that leads beyond the empty tomb. Let us begin.
God bless you,