By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH
Growing up in a tight knit Catholic, (Polish/German) faith community, I came to understand and appreciate the message, awe and beauty of the Advent season.
The Advent wreath was the center of our homes, classrooms and parish. There was anticipation with lighting of each new Advent candle during the four weeks of Advent. Our religious imagination remained kindled with expectation, hope and the awareness that Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was near. I am delighted when I visit a family to discover the Advent wreath as the center of their home and Advent prayers become the fabric of their faith journey.
Many years ago I discovered the Advent homilies of Fr. Karl Rahner,SJ, a leading Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century. His homilies enriched my understanding of the breadth and depth of the meaning of Advent. He reminded me that Advent is not only about the past but the present and future.
He wrote, “Advent demands that we look to the future: we are people of expectation and hope.”
Today we all need to embrace ‘hope’. Advent brings a fresh perspective amidst the angst, stress, distractions and polarization we experience in our world today. If we embrace that we are ‘Advent people of expectation and hope’, this makes all the difference how joyfully we experience the Christmas Season. Contemplate that each of us can be a beacon of hope and promise during these Advent days within a world that experiences darkness instead of light.
By reading select biblical narratives during Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s unconditional love for each one of us. This is one of the great mysteries we live each day: God with us ‘now’ but ‘yet to come’.
How wonderful is this? It is only through the eyes of faith that we believe (embrace) the ‘newness of God’. In one sense, we are referring to what we call is a Theology of Presence – a sense of sacredness to the now – the present moment. With this awareness, we are people of expectation and hope. We live, move and breathe in a ‘sacred world’ of God’s spirit – alive, dynamic and energizing – inspiring us forward.
Pope Francis consistently invites us to prepare for and experience an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is what Advent is all about. It is preparing our minds and hearts to be open to receive Jesus’ presence in our lives.
Fr. Rahner reminds us Advent means that every person and every Christian is and should be an Advent person- not just in this part of the church year, but also in his or her entire life.
Therefore, there are many ways we can prepare our minds and hearts for living as Advent persons. Prayer, sacraments, scripture reading, meditation, Lectio Divina and the study of our faith. It is in this spirit the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation offers a broad spectrum of online e-courses and e-seminars to prepare us during the year to celebrate with depth, wonder and expectation the Advent Season.
Yes, we are women and men of expectation and hope. We are Advent People. Let us rejoice!
Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min, is the Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. IPI oversees many university and global projects, including the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, a distance learning program serving 88 (Arch)dioceses worldwide for adults who want to enrich their faith, for religious educators, Catholic teachers,catechists, youth ministers or those interested in faith formation. To see the complete online e-course list in English, Spanish & Arabic, go to VLCFF.UDayton.edu