This week (starting yesterday), I feel I have lots of reminders and even helps to enter into the spirit of contemplation, of “seeing with new eyes.” First of all, the liturgy for the first week of Advent encourages me in turn by the prayers and readings to “Stay alert,” “Keep awake,” be “watchful.” Yesterday, we began to use the new translation of the Mass prayers (from Latin into English). I had to really be on my toes to remember to give the new responses in place of familiar ones. Tonight as part of our Cinema Divina series, I am showing the film, The Last Holiday, which is about a woman who finds out she is dying and begins living the life she always dreamed of.
I think that this attentiveness, this spirit of alertness to see with new eyes, is important both for my writing and my spiritual life. What am I looking for? What am I waiting for so eagerly?
For Christ’s coming. Advent is all about re-experiencing the first coming of Christ as a baby and preparing for the Second Coming of Christ in glory. But it is also full of the “small c” comings of Christ into my life:
- in my prayer–especially in the Eucharist and in the Word of God
- in the countless daily blessings I receive
- in the ways that our mission pushes me to stretch, to reach out in faith
- in moments of quiet
- in reading a story in the newspaper and discovering Christ’s goodness in the generosity of a local hero…
For Christ’s call. I try to conclude my meditation each morning by asking Jesus, “What is your call to me today?” Jesus invites me in so many ways. Glimpsing the troubled face of a young woman in my subway car can be an invitation to pray for her. A sister I share life with may challenge me to communicate in a more Christ-like manner. A news update on the radio can be a catalyst for a blog post or a bookchapter. These can all be invitations from Jesus. Christ’s coming and his call are often intertwined in my daily life.
For Christ’s constancy. The one thing we can stake our faith and our lives on is God’s constant, unfailing, saving love for us. Though I start my day with prayer, I find that all too often I still react out of fear to the unexpected that comes along. Yet if I am alert, I can sometimes discover Christ’s constant faithful love, humming a continuous melody through my day, through my life–even (or perhaps especially) in the unexpected.
Attentiveness and contemplation are not identical, but one can lead to the other. May this Advent be a doorway to contemplation for all of us, so that a spirit of attentiveness and deeper gaze of faith will enrich not just our art, but our growth in Christ.