Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new Church year. It is not Christmas shopping season. Indeed, the European custom of exchanging gifts on 6 December, the feast of St. Nicholas, makes a lot more sense than the chaos of the American observance. It would be nice if Christmas were celebrated as a strictly religious day, which is what it is, rather than a bacchanal of gifts and gastronomic goodies.
The Latin roots of the word advent are important if we are to comprehend the season. "Ad" and "venire" mean “to come to.” But that translation does not convey the full meaning of this season. Pope Benedict wrote that advent is the translation of the Greek word "parousia", which means presence, but even more specifically, means arrival. Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence, it is not the fullness of that presence. Think about it. Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence, it is not the fullness of that presence.
The birth of a baby initiates a presence that will change and shape a family forever. That process oftentimes begins the moment the pregnancy is known. It continues well after death, even death in great old age.
Presence is never full, it is always in process. Presence is always a becoming, always an approach toward fulfillment.
Presence is never complete, it is always changing and evolving, whether the other is physically present or not.
We have all been, and are even now being, influenced by the presence of others. Some are physically distant. Some are dead. They include: parents, teachers, mentors, and friends. Though not sharing space with us, perhaps never again able to share physical space with us, their presence in our lives is tangible. Their presence influences how we live our lives. That presence helps determine our decisions and actions. Their presence may soothe and comfort us during times of stress or may be a permanent source of anxiety and pain.
It is impossible not to respond to another’s presence. Even “ignoring” another’s presence is a response to it. The "silent treatment" is a deafening response to another's presence.
Jesus’ presence is an advent presence. A presence that is a process of “coming to.” During this season, through attention to the readings and gospel, we become particularly aware that Jesus is becoming present to this world. But, it is only the beginning and not the fullness of His presence. That fullness will only be known when each of us has died. That fullness will be known only after the universe has ceased to exist.
Jesus’ presence in our lives is threefold. We need only look and listen to experience that triple presence. Jesus is present as shepherd in the community of believers when the Church prays as one. Jesus is present in his word as proclaimed at Mass and meditated upon in the quiet of one's room. And, most tangibly, Christ is present truly and substantially present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.
We heard in the Gospel antiphon, "Show us Lord your love, and grant us your salvation." We have already been shown that love. We have already been promised salvation.
The above is something of a pseudo-homily in that I did not preach this morning. Deacon Alan Wong, SJ asked if I would celebrate Mass for a group of teenagers from the Boston Chinese Catholic Community who are in the process of preparing for confirmation. They were having a half-day of recollection at Faber Community. The only place closer to celebrate Mass would have been St. Mary's Hall in the Jesuit residence. Just far enough down the street (and a hill) that walking back was not an option. Alan proclaimed the Gospel and preached. Nice.
The photos are from an hour spent on campus and in the chapel last night. BC is a great place for photography. It will be possible to visit the same places under different weather conditions and times of day.
Gasson Hall with the tree visible in the distance.
The Tip O'Neil (or is it O'Neal, can't figure out Irish names) Library. The entrance is on the third level. Most of it is below grade. The terrain drops off quite sharply behind and alongside of the library.
Great moon last night.
The tree and the back of Gasson.
Gasson as seen from one of the windows in the hall leading past the dining rom of St. Mary's Hall.
The view of the tree from the window. Saw this and went back for the camera.
The chapel. This was a difficult photo to process in that I was using available light; no flash and did not turn the chapel lights on, in order to test the limits of the camera in low light with high speed "film." Am pleased. Night photography is going to be a lot easier with this new camera. If only I could figure out the cataloging function of the software.
Couldn't correct the color in this one to my satisfaction. Switched to black and white. Problem solved and photo showing more impact to my eye.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD