Wednesday, November 27, 2013



I’ve have a weird week. Coming from someone who teaches high school sophomores that’s probably not a very surprising statement. But the weird feeling has come from another and rather unexpected direction. It all started a month ago with an email.

My editor at Morehouse Publications emailed me to ask if I would consider writing a revised edition of Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey through Lent.  I thought it was a great idea and said yes right away.  I wrote up and submitted a proposal for a second edition, and then received a contract in the mail. Fine. The deadline for the improvements to the Lenten book is early March, 2014. Fine.

Then I set about writing a new introduction to the book and an appendix containing group discussion questions for an appendix. I really started getting into the Lent business. Then the weirdness began on Thanksgiving weekend


The Advent wreath appeared in the refectory, then we celebrated Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent, and I wrote a Sunday homily explaining the spiritual challenges of Advent. Then there were the songs on the radio and the decorations in the stores. Everything around me was proclaiming the coming of our Savior at Christmas. “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Imagine, then, having to sit down in the midst of all this and reflect about Lent. It was really difficult.

The disconnect was made worse in school because I started rehearsing music with the kids for the annual Christmas Program but in my New Testament class we began studying the passion narratives, and the death of Christ. I imagine the kids barely noticed the disconnect, and if they did it didn't much matter to them. But I was squirming inside. To be honest, part of me has been indignant at having my Benedictine liturgical sensibilities so sorely treated: writing about Lent while celebrating Advent, preparing the Christmas Program while teaching about Holy Week.


A few moments ago I found some help in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), in the paragraphs on the liturgical year (#1168 – 1171). They begin, of course, by noting that Easter is the central liturgical feast because it commemorates the central event of our salvation. “The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated ‘as a foretaste,’ and the kingdom of God enters into our time” (#1168).

Then three paragraphs later I discovered this statement: “In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal Mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, and Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery (#1171).

So there’s at least some source of consolation: No matter what season of the liturgical year we’re in, we’re celebrating some aspect of the Paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering-death-resurrection. Advent celebrates the preparation, the beginning, the anticipation of our salvation by Jesus that will culminate with Calvary and the empty tomb.  

When I was complaining about my weird week to a friend she suggested an even more basic way of putting this same idea: all of these feasts and seasons are about the same thing anyway -- God’s infinite LOVE for us.

So I’m gradually coming around to seeing the seeming contradictions and conflicts between Lent and Advent in my present life as an invitation to experience the unfathomable richness of the mystery God’s gift of salvation. No single feast or season can come anywhere near to exhausting the mystery, but maybe mixing them up together now and then can help me share in Saint Paul's wonder at God's greatness:

Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (Rom. 11:33)

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