Today is the beginning of Advent: the first of the four Sundays leading towards the Nativity. The word Advent means ‘the coming’, and, if we open ourselves to the spirit of Advent, these four weeks contain a heightened sense of anticipation, of expectancy, of hope, of waiting, and trusting in new life not yet fully known.
Here in northern Europe the winter is advancing, and for me the winter is a time of silence. Nature grows more silent in winter. There are no leaves on the bare limbs of the trees to give us the breeze’s summery rustle, and many animals are less active. Even the birds do not sing their dawn chorus in the winter darkness – and when the snow lies thick upon the ground all seems to fall still in the muffled white silence.
Silence also is for me a part of Advent. It is this silence which lifts Advent beyond being a time of the Christian liturgical year into being a time which touches upon mysteries which are more universal: those mysteries of the heart which touch us all. When the spirit of Advent is combined with the spirit of silence we are in a state of waiting in silence. And when that waiting is a waiting with a sense of deep and joyful anticipation for what is to come, we create a space in which love can grow, in which trust may flourish.
Love, hope, trust, silence, waiting in joy for what is to come, are all doors. Combining these doors together into one opens the door to the approach of wonder. But what is this wonder? To trust in love for what is to come, to allow our inner silence to grow in this time of waiting, allowing the loving-kindness that is the essence of the divine love to grow in us, is the true spirit of Advent: the spirit of anticipation, of silent wonder.
Detail Painting Madonna by Fra Filippo Lippi