If we had been told merely to fear [the coming of Christ], we should have mistaken a slavish dread, or the gloom of despair, for godly fear; and if we had been told merely to rejoice, we should perhaps have mistaken a rude freedom and familiarity for joy; but when we are told both to fear and to rejoice, we gain this much at first sight, that our joy is not to be irreverent, nor our fear to be desponding; that though both feelings are to remain, neither is to be what it would be by itself.... I say that whatever be the duty of fearing greatly and trembling greatly at the thought of the day of judgment, and of course it is a great duty, yet the command so to do cannot reverse the command to rejoice....
How joy and fear can be reconciled, words cannot show. Act and deed alone can show how....
May we learn to mature all graces in us: fearing and trembling, watching and repenting, because Christ is coming; joyful, thankful, and careless of the future, because he is come.
The very best that can be said of the fallen and redeemed race of Adam is that they confess their fall and condemn themselves for it and try to recover themselves. And this state of mind, which is in fact the only possible religion left to sinners, is represented to us in the parable of the prodigal son, who is described as receiving, then abusing, and then losing God's blessings, suffering from their loss, and brought to himself by the experience of suffering. A poor service indeed to offer, but the best we can offer, to make obedience our second choice when the world deserts us, when that is dead and lost to us wherein we were held!
Let us then consider this most serious question, which concerns every one of us so nearly: what is it to watch for Christ?
He watches for Christ who has a sensitive, eager, apprehensive mind; who is awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in seeking and honoring him; who looks out for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if he found that he was coming at once.
It's the last bit there that gives me pause. The quotation is from a sermon, but I don't know which one. Janet sent me a book, Waiting for Christ, which is a set of excerpts from Newman's sermons, one for each day of Advent.
Not about, but on the occasion of: the complaint I made last year about the thing called "Holiday":
The American Christmas has always, or at least since the middle of the last century or so, had its secularized aspect. That was fine: we were a predominantly Christian country, but plenty of people who did not celebrate the religious holiday as such found much to enjoy in the cultural paraphernalia. Irving Berlin gave us "White Christmas," which no decent person could dislike or resent, and he was Jewish. Notice, though, that he didn't shy away from using the word "Christmas." From an early age I had a sense that something was missing when the decorations and greetings and such of the season left out any mention whatsoever of Christmas itself. And at a not so early, but not very late, age it occurred to me that "the holiday season" would lose the essence of its charm if the religious core of it were removed.
Well, that has pretty much happened now as far as public speech is concerned.
"Middle of the last century"? I must have meant to say the 19th. It certainly predated the middle of the 20th. But anyway:
The good part of this is that as I lose interest in Holiday I take more notice of Advent.
Which I'm currently doing.
Perhaps what we modern people need most is to be genuinely shaken, so that when life is grounded, we would feel its stability; and where life is unstable and uncertain, immoral and unprincipled, we would know that, also and endure it. Perhaps that is the ultimate answer to the question of why God has sent us into this time, why he permits this whirlwind to go over the earth, and why he holds us in such a state of chaos and in hopelessness and in darkness--and why there is no end in sight. It is because we have stood here on the earth with a totally false and inauthentic sense of security. So now, God lets the earth resound, and now he shudders it, and then he shakes it, not to call forth a false anxiety...
He does it to teach us one thing again: how to be moved in spirit. Much of what is happening today would not be happening if people were in that state of inner movement and restlessness of heart in which man comes into the presence of God the Lord and gains a clear view of things as they really are. Then man would have let go of much that has thrown all our lives into disorder one way or another and has thrashed and smashed our lives. He would have seen the inner appeals, would have seen the boundaries, and could have coordinated the areas of responsibility. Instead, man stood on this earth in a false pathos and a false security, under a deep delusion in which he really believed he could single-handedly fetch stars from heaven; could enkindle eternal lights in the world, and avert all danger from himself; that he could banish the night, and intercept and interrupt the internal quaking of the cosmos, and maneuver and manipulate the whole thing into the conditions standing before us now.
That is the first Advent message: before the end, the world will be set quaking. And only where man does not cling inwardly to false security will his eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate.
--Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J.
This is meditation for the first Sunday of Advent in Magnificat. I don't understand all of it but I'm really struck by the idea that God is shaking the world even as man believes he has control of it. The words meant more when I realized, checking their source, that they were written during World War II, possibly while Fr. Delp was a prisoner of the Nazis, soon to be executed.
I've seen Fr. Delp's name in Magnificat before, but nowhere else that I can remember, and I didn't know that he was active in resistance to the Nazis. which I guess makes him a martyr. There's more information at Wikipedia. The words above are taken from a collection of his writings called Advent of the Heart, which I think I want to read.
I hope Our Lady would take the title of this post in the affectionate tone in which I first heard it, which was from the lips of a college teacher in reference to his own wife's gravid condition. She was within earshot, if I remember correctly, and seemed to be more amused than not.
This painting is on the cover of this month's Magnificat, and I found it startling. I don't think I've seen another picture of the pregnant Mary that's quite so...pregnant. And I think it's good to be reminded of the elemental physicality of her condition, which sometimes gets missed in the devout respect shown to her, and especially as it would have been two days before the Birth. I would hope the homely comparison would have amused her as it did my teacher's wife (I think).
It occurs to me that many people today may not have seen a washtub. Here's one in operation (picture lifted from an interesting-looking blog called Old Picture of the Day:
Music for Gaudete Sunday
A few nights ago I was looking for Advent music to post this weekend. I came across this hymn, which I hadn't heard before. I played it once, only half-listening, shrugged, and then ran out time for looking without finding anything better, so ended up not posting anything. But we sang this today at Mass, and by the third verse I was thinking "Actually, this is great."
Finally, something a bit more seasonally appropriate. Not Advent-specific, obviously, but at least on the general subject. My friend Robert has been praising a collection of Christmas songs by Kathleen Battle, and it was while listening to one of them that I ran across this. Even though Christmas is only three days away, I decided to post this instead.
The Christmas album, by the way, seems very good on the basis of the selections I heard. In general I tend not to like classical singers in non-classical material--the singers tend to overpower the songs. But these performances seem to be like the Ave Maria, very restrained and pure. It's called A Christmas Celebration.