Sunday, December 04, 2011

Advent of the Heart

Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself. The prerequisite for a fulfilled Advent is a renunciation of the arrogant gestures and tempting dreams with which, and in which, man is always deceiving himself. Thus he compels reality to use violence to bring him around, violence and much distress and suffering.                     
These words of Father Alfred Delp, SJ, were written from behind the walls of Tegel Prison in Berlin in the waning days of Father Delp's life. Delp, accused of conspiring against the Nazi government, would be executed only a few weeks after these words were written.

Advent, for me, has become something akin to the weekly weigh-in I had to go through when I was in Weight-Watchers. There is no fooling the scale: you either were disciplined during the week or you were not, and the scale didn't care one bit about any good intentions or bad days. The scale loomed large in my life throughout that year and it helped me to admit (1) that I needed to re-learn how to eat in a healthy way and (2) that I needed help to get down to a healthy weight.

Each Advent, I am reminded (1) I always need to re-learn how to be disciplined in prayer and (2) that I need the support of others in becoming the disciple I most want to become. Just as I used to plan my daily meals in the shadow of the scale, should I not feel an even greater pressure to chart my life according to the impending birth of the Christ Child? Just as I once oriented my life to the demand of the weigh-in scale, how much more ought I to turn my eyes to the Cross as that which guides me?

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