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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Always There is Advent

The rhythm of our family life has been turned on its head since we've begun this multifaceted journey into Orthodoxy.  Most of the holy days and seasons that we used to order our lives by have changed in focus or date, or have even faded into the background to accommodate the Byzantine rite and its calendar.  I'm not sure what to make of this Advent period in my new ecclesiastical home. The focus seems to fall most strongly on the Nativity fast and its corresponding self examination and confession.   Not so different really, but no Advent wreath flickers in our parish church.  The O Antiphons do not echo there.

 My daughter tells me she would prefer to be married in a Byzantine style church.  This daughter that I had always pictured kneeling at the altar rail of a high church Western parish in the glow of stained glass and aumbry light.  No bells will peel for my girl and her beloved.  We have entered a new country - one that, although unfamiliar, we have chosen gratefully and peacefully.

Still, the darkness grows long in the California mountains.  Broom and dustpan beckon us to clean our home and our souls.  Eerie night hangs low and ominously questions -- are we ready?  It is Advent still.

Are we ready for the birth of a king?  Are we prepared for him to enter our lives full force and dwell in clean swept quarters?  Are we ready for his return?  And so, in the midst of new rhythms and of family growth and change, we fall into old habits cast in new light.  Nights are spent cleaning and praying, examining our lives and waiting hopefully upon approaching light.

Change is coming.  I can feel it around the edges of our lives.  And so this year, as every year in Advent, I wonder: Have we prepared adequately?  have we taught and learned what was needful?  Have we stored up skills and wisdom and sufficient strength of character to bear the challenge?  Have we done it justice?, of course we haven't.  There is always more that is needful, much that was neglected.  I am sorely inadequate.  I can hardly manage my own life, much less pass the skills of life and home management on to another.  And yet the wheel turns, and gray hairs come, and daughters grow more wise and ready. Ready to embark on a life that she is not fully prepared for.  I have not done her justice.

Still, it is Advent.  Time to prepare. Time to examine and correct.  Time to light flames of hope that accumulate to form a great light as time progresses.  Each year, there is Advent.  Perhaps the greatest lesson is self appraisal and renewal.  Perhaps the greatest lesson is the lighting of flickering hope for a future of continual growth and progress.

So then, she is ready, because each year of her life she has lit candles of purple and pink and whispered into ominous darkness: O Come O Come Emmanuel. Come and bring us true hope.

Pax Christi dear ones,
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
And Ransom Captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel.

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