I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the third week of Advent (and less than a week away from Christmas)! My third “A” for Advent (thanks to Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr–Daily Meditations for Advent by Father Richard Rohr) is Alert. I’m not speaking of a physical alertness. Instead, I think that Advent highlights the quality of spiritual “alertness” in our waiting. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:6).
Spiritual alertness springs from awareness in the present moment (see last week’s post), but focuses more on what is to come. What future does God have in store for us? Our future is twofold: the immediate future and the eternal “future” that we will enter at the end of our lives. According to the Advent readings, especially from the prophet Isaiah, God wants to give us a future of joy, peace, abundance, and, above all, fullness of life! But to receive these graces, we need to prepare to receive them. This is where spiritual alertness is helpful.
While I was making my 30 Day Spiritual Exercises in October, I arose early every morning to pray in the chapel, then returned to my bedroom to “pray in” the dawn. Those early morning moments of quiet intimacy with the Lord are something that I will always treasure. In waiting for the rising of the sun, I was practicing daily a state of alertness. I wasn’t just waiting, I was “looking for” the coming of the Lord, and this alertness accompanied me throughout the entire day of prayer.
Sometimes, when the Lord seems distant and we grow tired of praying in the silence, we might try to remember that “waiting for the Lord” and a ready state of spiritual alertness, while uncomfortable, may be one of the prayers that help us to grow the most–in faith, in hope, and in love.
Alertness is also, of course, a wonderful state of preparedness for us as writers, helping us to be more receptive to inspiration and new ideas, to see connections, to follow where our writing leads (not always easy to do). Especially when I’ve been away from writing for a while, I find it difficult to slip back into an alert mindset. One way that I try to do this is to take time the day before I delve back into writing to make a list of all the writing projects that I am working on or want to be working on, and prioritizing them. This somehow prepares my mind to start working on a writing project; in a way, I’ve given my mind a goal to start playing with for my future writing session. Then, when I start writing the next day, my mind has already been preparing for one of the top projects on my list. (I can’t always predict which project I’ll pick up to help me get back into a writing mode…but as long as I’m back into writing, I can eventually switch into the project with the first deadline.) What are some ways that you, as a writer, “prepare to write”?
May these last days of Advent–the liturgical season where the Church goes on “high alert”–be a time of spiritual alertness for all of us, a time when we prepare our hearts to recognize and receive the joy and peace that the Lord wants to give us.