Monday, November 24, 2014

Israel, Revelation, and Advent

It's that time already: Advent! Does your family do anything special during the weeks of Advent? Perhaps a wreath?

We have a wreath (must buy candles).

And so the story begins once again. It never really ended, nor did it begin. It always has been. God loves us and has loved us forever.

What does the Bear's visit to Israel and the book of Revelation and Advent have in common?

In Israel, it seemed that everywhere the Bear went, time was compressed, like an archeological tell whose layers had been smashed together into one. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, here was where Christ was crucified, and step over here to Adam's tomb. Look up into the Upper Room, and, in the same place, look down into King David's Tomb.

In the book of Revelation, past, present, and future are all at once. It is not so much that time has no meaning, but that it cannot contain the heavenly story. The woman clothed in the sun gives birth, the dragon will be cast out, the Lamb has been slain from the foundation of the ages.

So Advent is not just a memory, like Martin Luther King Day. Once again, we enter into the mystery of the Church's peculiar timelessness, and touch eternity with the tips of our fingers.

This Advent, the Bear will think to himself whether sometimes he has too much with time, and has lost the eternal perspective. For the dragon always wars against the saints and angels. And the dragon always lies defeated. Time cannot imprison the Babe in His manger. The Church is always reminding us that she owns time, not -- despite appearances -- the other way around. The daily cycle of Lauds and Vespers; the yearly calendar of celebrations Advent to Advent; and then again -- or is it only once and for all?


  1. In recent years, during which loved ones have passed away, I have found that during the Advent season, mourning loses some of its oppressive weight. As you suggest, time really does seem to dissolve in the radiance of the Christ child. It really does seem possible, at the manger bed of the infant Light of the World, that those who have passed away are near us again, standing close enough to touch. Not old, nor particularly young, but happy and strong and somehow more deeply recognizable than when they were "here". Or so it has seemed to me, and it helps.

  2. p.s. OK, now for something really embarrassing: I have never gotten the hang of keeping an Advent wreath. Would like to start, even at this ridiculously late juncture. Am beginning at a point of near-total ignorance. Question: Do you light the candle/s again every morning and extinguish them at night? Is Sunday the day to light the new candle for the coming week (I'm pretty sure the answer to that is YES...)

    Clueless After All These Years

  3. We light the candles starting Sunday before Vespers, starting with the first purple, then second week purple, third pink, fourth purple. We light them for Vespers and put them out afterwards. So the week starting this Sunday, only one candle will burn; next Sunday two, etc. By Christmas, you've got four candles of different heights, the shortest being the one you started with.

    We get our wreath stuff at Hobby Lobby.

    Let's see, what else... in our parish we bring our wreaths to Mass next Sunday for blessing.

    That's about all there is to it. Other families might have their own traditions.

  4. This is a very nice little summary of the background of the tradition by a priest of my diocese....,27674


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