I don’t know if this is a common experience or not, but for me, one of the most disorienting aspects of graduating college and entering the workplace was losing the rhythm of the academic year, which had formed a significant basis for the routine of my life for the previous 17 years. I went, all at once, from a life in which each time and season of the year had its own character, pace, and focus, to a world in which most days, whether they were in March or July or November, were substantially the same in terms of what was expected of me, particularly in my work. Add to this the fact that my first working years were on active duty in the Navy, and being on a ship meant I was subject to moving all over the globe to different places and climates, even the weather outside where I happened to be was not a reliable guide to where I was in the rhythm of the year. All of this really messed with my sense of being rooted in my life, and from this experience, I have gradually realized that there is something important about having that anchor of a definable rhythm of the seasons.
This rhythm of the year is something that is sometimes fairly evident in the life of the Church and our liturgical year. Some seasons of the liturgical year emphasize reflection, while others are all about celebration and activity, and it strikes me that this is something healthy for us as a spiritual community.
We are getting ready to begin Advent. This season of the liturgical year is one that receives a great deal of emphasis on its nature as a time of waiting and anticipating, rather than activity. However, a brief look around at the world outside reveals a stark contrast between the secular world that we live in and the life of the church. Advent, which seems to me to be most properly a somewhat slower, more peaceful season, has been turned into the most frenetic of times by the world at large. There are Christmas parties to be thrown or attended, year-end quotas to be met at work, holiday cards to be sent, and of course, shopping to be done, for as we all know, in some quarters Jesus Christ is viewed mainly as the patron saint of 4th quarter profits. Where, in all this activity, are we to find the time to cultivate an attitude of anticipation for the time when Christ first enters the world?
As we enter the Advent season, let us try in our own lives and in the life of the church to relax just a little, catch our breaths, and begin to anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth that is soon to come.