Happy (liturgical) New Year! Start donning those royal purples and practicing your Aramaic exhortations – the Advent season is upon us once again. Of course, much more important than the season’s liturgical color or meditating on “maranatha” is to do what Isaiah and John the Baptist exhort us to do: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Advent is the penitential season in the Church during which we prepare to meet the Lord anew: as He comes into our lives each day, as He will come to us in a full way at our death, and as He will come to all peoples at the end of time.
One of the keys of this preparation for the Lord’s coming, as the Church reminds us today through the Gospel reading at Mass, is that we “do not know when the time will come.” We do not know when we will run into a poor person in need, and we do not know when we will meet our own end. (Certainly by now, we should know that we don’t know the date of the End Times!) Therefore, as the Lord exhorts us many times in today’s short Gospel, we must “watch,” we must be constantly prepared. Indeed, awareness is essential to the Christian life, and to any authentic life, as our friend B. Lonergan reminds us: “Be attentive!”
And what is perhaps the best way to remain attentive to the Lord’s presence in our daily lives? The Examen of St. Ignatius, which surely needs no introduction to the readers of this blog. Part of my own Advent practice this year is a renewed dedication to the Examen in my daily prayer life. I knew that this particular decision was one the Lord wanted me to make after experiencing a deep sense of His presence participating in a 15 minute extended Examen last weekend on retreat (more on this in a separate post). With His help, I will make this extended practice a daily one, at least before bed, if not also midday.
While it is common even amongst lapsing Catholics to give up something during Lent, it seems to be less common for even practicing Catholics to do so during Advent, although it is also a penitential season. I encourage you, readers of the blog, to consider making some sacrifice, no matter how small, these fours weeks til Christmas. Or, perhaps, you might add a practice you have not considered or have ignored in the past. When the theme of the season is making the Lord’s coming among us more apparent, taking on the Examen more seriously might be a good practice to adopt.
As a side note, today’s entrance antiphon for the Mass is the source from which this blog gets its name: “Ad te levavi animam meam…” I chose this name precisely because it evokes the beginning of a new year and a fresh beginning in preparing for the Lord’s coming. In a way, this could be considered the blog’s birthday, since I don’t have any recollection of when I actually started it. So, happy birthday, blog!