This evening marks the beginning of the new liturgical year (Happy New Year!) and the season of Advent. With the Vigil Mass and or Evening Prayer I of the 1st Sunday of Advent, we begin one of the shortest and – to my mind – most under-appreciated sections of the Catholic calendar.
Between my family and two parishes, I’ve shared in the joy of four different engagements (delightfully, my brother & his fiancée are my parishioners!). Although a parish priest is necessarily somewhat involved in preparations for marriage, the concerns that weigh on the minds of the couple-to-be usually center around affairs outside of the sacramental. Where will the reception be? Which dress is just the right one? Who will we invite? What kind of invitations will even be sent? Which friends and family will be in the bridal party? And what…
Perhaps the top advice I give couples engaged to be married is this: enjoy it! In a few short months (deep breathes, don’t panic!), you’ll be husband and wife – but how about enjoying this state of engagement?
It seems that the joy of anticipation is something we so easily forget. And it is something worth celebrating – a promise, though not yet fulfilled, already made and accepted by both. He proposed – she said yes! Let’s dwell on what that means, and enjoy all that has brought us to that moment before rushing to the next. That we long to hear engagement stories (‘tell me how he proposed!’) reflects the importance of the moment.
How easy it is to get caught up in the hustle of these coming weeks. Christmas commercials started weeks, even months ago. The allure of Black Friday continues that play on our insecurities about gifts. Soon we’ll be inundated with reminders that we’re not ready – do you have your menu planned out, what about gifts for aunt so-and-so, when can you start listening to Christmas music and should you say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’?
So much for enjoying the moment, no?
What is Advent if not a retelling of the engagement story? Christ’s birth is the proposal, Easter the wedding, Heaven the reception. Advent is the run-up, the prep work of the engagement – the knowledge of both parties that the proposal is coming, that the answer is ‘yes’, that a celebration is in the works.
But lets not rush to the next thing. Stay in this moment, reflect on what it means, perhaps prepare more fully for the coming feasts. A return to the confessional, peace with estranged friends & family, worthy reception of the Eucharist – these are the opportunities this time affords us. Because this isn’t the first go-around – this is a renewal of our wedding vows, the joining of God and man through Christ. By faithfully recalling, re-living these moments, we open ourselves just a little more to the graces that Christ won for us in coming to us as we did.
All of this so that when the next moment finally does come, Christ’s return to start the wedding banquet, we may be found ready.
Have a blessed and happy Advent.