Advent: Journey into Mystery

Advent: Journey into Mystery

By Sister Marianne Burkhard, OSB

The Advent of my childhood in Switzerland began with getting out my Advent calendars, all used before. Each year I opened the doors with renewed anticipation. St. Nicholas came on December 6 with some ginger bread, a few tangerines and a little switch for the wall of the play area reminding me and my little friends to be good.

Impatiently I awaited December 24,  Christmas Eve, Heiligabend, Holy Evening.

Only a few preparations still needed to be made by noon when my father came home early from work. Often he took me on a walk through the woods that were most beautiful with snow, but even without it their stillness seemed different.

At dusk we lit the candles around the crib in the hallway (put out just two days before) and sang a song like “O Come, Little Children” (of course in German). Later, I also played a Christmas piece on the piano.

Then came the moment when we went into the room with the Christmas tree after my father had lit all its real candles. Every time – even on the following days and later when I had my own small tree with candles – their mellow, unique light evoked a quiet joy in my heart.

My mother read the Christmas story from Luke, we sang “Silent Night” and other songs and admired the candlelight.

After extinguishing the candles, we had a simple meal, then opened the presents. As I grew a little older, I would go out on the porch to listen to the stillness of the night, a stillness that always seemed more mysterious than on any other night.

Today, our monastic Christmas Eve - with our Christmas Vigil around the Crib in the Chapel - is my favorite part of Christmas. It helps me to adore the mystery awaited all through Advent.

The darkness enhances the light of the incarnation - the amazing paradox that God chose to become fully human – asking us again to prepare our hearts in patient waiting for Rebirth within us.

Advent calls me to find stillness, to open my faith.

It calls me to look to Mary whose ‘ears of the heart’ were attuned to God’s voice allowing her to say yes to God’s plan; to the shepherds who were able to believe the angels’ voices, to run to Bethlehem in haste and believe; and to the magi whose ‘eyes of the heart’ had recognized in a special star the sign that drew them onto a long journey that led them to this unlikely place where they could adore the prophesized divine revelation.  

Advent calls us to quiet down, yet every year it is a challenge to find some time here and there – in a sunset, an evening or even in our midst of busyness – to calm our minds and reach for the still place within us where our waiting can deepen in search of the moment when Christ knocks to enter the humble manger of our own hearts.

Comments (2)

  1. Lise Strieder:
    Dec 17, 2018 at 07:26 AM

    Your memories of Christmas time and Advent are so heart warming while I am celebrating on my own...and studying!

  2. Susan Ryan:
    Dec 17, 2018 at 11:12 PM

    Sr. Marianne,
    Your writing about how Mary listened with the ears of her heart is so deep and touching. I appreciate your insight.
    Many blessings on your quiet, holy Christmas.

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