One early December Monday, when I was in second grade, our teacher asked us if we noticed something new at Church when we went to mass the day before.
I eagerly raised my hand and when signaled to stand up, I proudly said, "Isang malaking istatwa ng Sto Nino po!" (One huge statue of the Sto. Nino.). My teacher's face went blank and then she asked for another answer. As I sat down, I was clueless why she didn't affirm me for my brilliant answer.
Then one of my classmates stood up and said, "Ma'am, I saw an advent wreath."
So I was eight when I first learned what an Advent Wreath was.
You can find s a simple explanation of the symbolism of the advent wreath here.
Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, also the start of the liturgical year. A couple of days ago, I attended an Advent Recollection with Lingkod QC, facilitated by Bro. Francis Iturralde of the Servants of the Word. Mass was celebrated by Fr Steve Tynan, mgl, who incidentally marked his 42nd birthday yesterday and his 15th anniversary as a priest on Thursday.
It's been months since my last personal retreat. When I heard Francis say, "Every transition is painful", I knew I would hear God during that recollection. By the second talk, I was reduced to tears and could hardly write in my prayer journal. I was enveloped by God's love and assurance, that even if I had many struggles due to the many changes in my life, He was with me. Lingkod QT's asked if I was ok, and I said, "Don't mind me. I'm experiencing God's presence." The sharing within our discussion group was also life-giving for all of us. It was a Spirit-filled recollection.
Francis assured us that as pilgrims on this earth, we're not meant to live a comfortable life. We're not supposed to settle down and be content with our earthly possessions; not even our earthly relationships. We're meant to hunger and thirst and wait for our union with God.
He led us through the liturgical year to explain the significance of Advent, how it points to the end. I was able to recite significant dates in the Catholic faith and to express what Christmas was all about- the incarnation. Thankfully, I was not as clueless as when I was a grade schooler.
But I was not content with mere head knowledge of facts and dates. I was searching for the meaning of God's word in my life, at this stage of change and challenge. God did not disappoint. He spoke with understanding and compassion. He made me see that I was on the right path - that a lifetime of waiting was nothing compared to an eternity with Him; that the challenges and crosses of this world were nothing given the fact that His Son had already conquered the world.
I almost didn't attend that recollection as I was physically tired and emotionally burdened, but I'm glad I did. Sometimes clouds don't lift all at the same time, but there are significant moments when we gather enough strength to endure.
It is not yet Christmas, but the fact that it certainly leads to Christmas makes Advent so very special. Every day is a step of faith, closer to where real hope, faith, and love are waiting.
Lord, I am once again blinded from seeing Your Love for me. Please lead me to get rid of the scales from my eyes. I want to see You clearly, and to love others as You love me. Amen.