Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. It is my 37th Advent. If you asked me growing up if I thought I would ever spend, not just Christmas, but all of Advent in another country, my answer probably would have been: Only if I was scoping out things for Santa Claus. (Despite what people over the age of 11 may tell you, Santa Claus is real, he is the physical representation of giving. I have an entire philosophy, but I won’t go into all of it.)
I am pleased, honored, proud, fulfilled, thrilled, happy, and every positive adjective you can think of to be spending this Advent in a place where I am like a child because I know nothing and am leaning and learning on two courageous women of our congregation to guide me through it all.
“Christmas is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the meaning and value of our existence. The approach of this Solemnity helps us on the one hand to reflect on the drama of history in which people, injured by sin, are perennially in search of happiness and of a fulfilling sense of life and death; and on the other, it urges us to meditate on the merciful kindness of God who came to man to communicate to him directly the Truth that saves, and to enable him to partake in his friendship and his life. Therefore let us prepare ourselves for Christmas with humility and simplicity, making ourselves ready to receive as a gift the light, joy and peace that shine from this mystery.” -Pope Benedict XVI
Again I say something I’d never seen at Nuestra Señora del Pilar. During the handshake of peace, as all the adults were saying Paz de Christo, the children ran to Padre Miguel to shake his hand. I’ve seen priests occasionally step down to shake some parishioners’ hands, but I’ve never seen a church where it was the children who go to the priest to shake his hand. After Mass, people piled around Padre Miguel for a blessing with a healthy dose of Holy Water; he also blessed an Advent wreath a child was carrying proudly for his family.
Every morning and evening we pray the most beautiful of prayers called the Divine Office. If you have prayed the Office, you know why it is called Divine, the Hand of God is truly within the pages of Lauds, Sext, Terce, None, Vigils, Vespers, Compline. In Owensboro, I am able to pray Lauds (morning), Sext (midday), Vespers (evening), and Compline (night), here we have time for Lauds and Vespers. We read the gospel for the following day after the last prayer of the day as our founder Fr. René de la Chevasnerie, SJ, put a special emphasis on meditation of the gospels.
I brought my Office book from Kentucky, but it has sat on the desk in my room gathering Juarez desert dust because I have been praying the Office in Spanish with terrible pronunciation. I vaguely know what is going on only because I have prayed the Office enough times to just vaguely know what is going on.
The woman we invited to lunch yesterday has asked me twice if I am happy; she doesn’t speak English, but the Spanish word for happy is contento. I say yes to her, not because I know the word is happy, but because I view the word as being contented.
Happiness, to me, is fleeting, but contentment, fulfillment with the Lord is permanent. There is no day that is not blessed, because the Lord is in every moment of every day.