Keeping Silence, Being Flesh
Advent, the season of preparation for the coming of our Lord and King Jesus Christ, is upon us in full force. This preparation, though, is not the frenzied finish to pre-Christmas shopping, nor the frantic preparations of a family preparing to add a new member, but a preparation in silence.
It’s fair to ask how this could possibly be, given the fact that this is the noisiest time of the year, in perhaps the noisiest year in human history (certainly there were worse and more eventful years, but never before has the world had such universal access to our ears). How are we to quietly, meditatively prepare for Christ’s coming?
This question takes on added importance when we remember that our preparation is not just for the celebration of the Incarnation, but also for his second coming. Pope Saint John Paul the Great said rightly that we are an Easter people, living in the afterglow of Christ’s victory over death, but we are equally an Advent people, always preparing for the messiah, always making straight the way of the Lord.
Our silent preparation for Christmas, then, should become an integral part of our way of life. It should permeate our joys and our sorrows, losses and celebrations, as we carry with us the constant reminder that all has not yet been made right, but that it will be. To be an Advent people is to soberly recognize the state of the world around us, and to ask the Lord that his kingdom come.
This is all well and good, but the practicals remain a glaring question mark. How are we to go about this preparation, to create this silence? The Church is helpful in guiding us here. Advent is, like Lent, a penitential season. It is a time for fasting, serving, and self-denial. Perhaps it is helpful to find the noisy parts of our lives, the places that the chaos of the world gets in, and shut those out for the remainder of the season. A small fast can be incredibly helpful in creating space in our lives for quiet, and it’s amazing to see how God works when we give him this space.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, I want to hone in on the idea of service in this season. We are about to celebrate the mystery of the incarnation: God becoming man. It’s important to consider what that means. God, in his infinite power and lacking nothing, chose to take on bodily need. In becoming flesh, and poor flesh at that, he made flesh sacred in a new way. He gave new meaning to the truth that all humanity is made in the image and likeness of God, because God became human. To prepare for his coming, then, is to practice receiving Christ, something he taught us is done when we receive the “least of these” or feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. Our preparation for the coming of Christ, our making straight the way of the Lord, is, like everything else, a call to action, not noisily, looking for praise or recognition, but doing quiet, local good for those in need.
I want to leave you, dear reader, with the lyrics of the second greatest Advent hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. I want to encourage you to read over this verse, wonder at the miracle of God becoming human, and consider what that means for us as humans.
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food.
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow’rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!”
Know of our prayers for you this advent season, and we look forward to celebrating Christmas with you all.
Andy Brandt is a Senior at Kansas State. You can find him writing about Catholicism, Politics, and Justice at https://medium.com/@