Advent as a Quiet New Year

Advent as a Quiet New Year

When I taught in Catholic elementary schools, I would don all my Happy New Year gear and stand in the hallway blowing my noise maker and shouting “Happy New Year!” to the students as they arrived the Monday morning after the first Sunday of Advent. The students’ expressions were priceless the first time I did this in each school: from confusion, to “are you crazy??”, to grins, and only one or two middle school students would say “Ohh I get it, Advent is the beginning of the church’s new year.”

In some ways, I am grateful that the Church ushers in the new liturgical year with Advent’s quiet vigil and reflection, and winter’s darkness.  Too often in Advent we dwell on the darkness as something that must be dispelled and gotten rid of with the presence of light. This Advent I am reflecting on darkness as God’s healing and loving presence. The lyrics of Velma Frye’s song “O Beautiful Darkness” from her album Seven Sacred Pauses resonate with me:

The arms of darkness hold us, 
Revealing now how dear we are.
O, beautiful darkness. O, comforting darkness.

Just as a seed is buried in nurturing dark soil needs to be dormant during the season of winter, so to do our souls need a period of rest and introspection during the season of Advent.  God issues the invitation and waits for us lovingly in the darkness.

Enfold us and hold us. 
Inform us, transform us.
O, beautiful darkness. O, comforting darkness.

It is in the darkness that we come to know ourselves and recognize that dark and light co-exist. As we approach the winter solstice where our “sun stands still” and Christmas brings the Son of God into our world, we are called to stand still and take stock of who we are.

Surround us, all around us,
And hold our light, like sky to star.
O, beautiful darkness. O, comforting darkness

Sister Rejane Cytacki, SCL is a Sister of the Charity of Leavenworth (SC). She entered in 2005 and is currently living in Racine, WI where she serves as the Executive Director of the Eco-Justice Center, a ministry of the Racine Dominicans. Rejane is also a member of the Giving Voice Core Leadership Team.