Time to Know Your Deepest Longings
As a deer longs for
flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for
God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me
continually, ¨Where is your God?〃
One day on a evening
walk in the jungle I came face to face with a deer. Our town had been in
the midst of a stretch of very hot weather, and the stream I was walking
along was mostly dried up. I had stopped at a place where the small
stream broke into a pool before it disappeared back under ground.
As I sat for a while
watching and listening to the gurgling water, a deer quietly appeared.
We stared at one another for a few moments and, sensing I was no threat,
the deer moved to the edge of the water and drank deeply.
I recalled the words,
¨As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.〃
I had been experiencing a kind of winter in my soul. There were few
signs of life, and the Spirit of God seemed to have become dried up
within me. Somehow, I was drawn to this external image of my internal
longingflowing water finding a way to bubble up from beneath the dried
It was Advent and I was
longing, even though I was barely aware of my discontent. Like everyone
else I had been caught up in the busyness of Christmas preparations.
Though we had lit the Advent candles at home and I had tried to pray, I
needed more. I needed time to really allow my sense of longing to swirl
up and become clear to me as it did on that dry walk in the woods. I
knew then that I needed a closer relationship to God and that I had to
stop just going through the motions of my prayer life. My longing, once
acknowledged, turned out to be an invitation to live with a deeper
awareness of God's presence and care all around me.
What are you longing
for? What is your heart trying to tell you? The gift God offers this
first week of Advent is the invitation to explore your inner longings.
The Church, through our Advent customs, and even the weather of the
season itself support such inner work. During the first week of Advent,
give yourself time and space to contemplate what you are truly longing
for in life. Know that this is the season when your longings will lead
you to the Christ Child, in whom the hopes and fears of all the years
are known and responded to with generous love.
Theme: Our World
Longs for God
As individuals and as a
community, we are longing for the presence of God. World events shatter
our complacency; family difficulties shake our resolve. How can we say
God is present when so much seems to be unstable?
|Advent Preparation Tips
When Advent comes, we are excited because the ¨Lord is coming.〃 And our
prayer is ¨Come, Lord Jesus!〃 Our excitement inspires us to prepare our
hearts and our lives for the coming of Jesuswhether in His ¨second
coming〃 as the King of glory at the end of time or of our livesor in
His ¨third coming〃 as one like us in the person of our poor brothers and
sisters, everyday of our lives. Perhaps we can do three things:
reconciliation with God, reading the Bible, and reaching out to the
Reconciliation with God
When we are expecting a visitor, we do house cleaning. How much more
must we put our house, ie, our hearts and lives, if the one who is
coming is the Lord Himself. He has given us the sacrament of
reconciliation to cleanse us of our sins and give us the strength to
triumph over the temptations hounding us each day.
Reading the Bible
When we are expecting a visitor, especially if he/she is one we have not
met before, we want to know more about him/her. How much more should be
we familiar with the guest if He is the Lord. We have the Holy Bible
where we can read about who this coming one is. At least Chapters 1 and
2 of Matthew and Luke will be most helpful in this regard.
Reaching out to the Poor
In the Parable of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:3-46), the king says, ¨For I
was hungry and you gave me food.〃 Hence, it is the Lord we are
entertaining whenever we deal charitably with our hungry, naked, thirsty
brothers and sisters. And there are many of them around us. Sharing our
blessings with them is one sure way of making our Christmas joyful,
because there is more joy in giving than in receiving.
¨In his love He has filled us with joy
as we prepare to celebrate His birth,
so that when he comes, he may find us watching in prayer,
our hearts filled with wonder and praise.〃 (Advent Preface II)
Symbolism and Prayers of the Advent Season
Advent is the season of hope, preparation, expectation and celebration.
The word advent is Latin for ¨a coming or arrival〃. The first Sunday of
Advent marks the beginning of the Liturgical year in the Western
calendar. Advent is not limited to the preparation for the arrival of
Christˇs birth but also a time to remind us of our redemption and of the
second coming of Jesus that is to come.
The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath is the most recognizable symbol of this season. An
advent wreath is comprised of four candles that symbolize and focus our
attention on the coming of Christ, the Light of the World. The wreath
may consist of any material; however, evergreen branches are symbolic
and a popular choice.
Making an Advent wreath and having a simple lighting ceremony each week
for four weeks leading up to birth of Christ on December 25th often is
the centre for family prayer during this period of preparation. The
advent wreath may be lit along with the Christmas candle (the white
candle put in the middle of the Advent wreath on December 25th)
throughout the Christmas season until the Feast of Epiphany, the common
close of the Christmas Season.
Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
• Circle of the Advent Wreath represents the endlessness of time in
which God remains united with humanity.
• Evergreens - symbolize the freshness and vitality of the relationship
among God, humanity and of creation.
• Four Candles and colour represent the progressive revelation of God
- fully realized in the birth and life of Jesus. Purple: lit on the
first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent represent waiting and
repentance. Pink: lit on the third Sunday of Advent and represents a
needed break from the sombreness of the other weeks and celebrates the
approaching coming of Jesus. It is a time to reaffirm our personal
preparations for a meaningful Christmas season.
• White Christmas Candle at Christmas a white candle is placed in the
center of the wreath, which symbolizes Jesus, the light of the world.
Advent week 2
Gift 2: God's Words of Comfort
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to
Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty
is paid, that she has received from the LORD'S hand double for all her
A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make
straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be
lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground
shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the
LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the
mouth of the LORD has spoken.
In early adulthood I began to find Christmas a great letdown. People
talk about the magic of Christmas. At that time in my life, the magic
seemed to have disappeared. Christmas began to seem like just any other
day, only one with a lot of additional obligations and emotional
Ironically, my sense of holiday malaise began to ease when I accepted
that Christmas is, in one respect, just like any other day. That is, I
can recognize the coming of Christ into my life and into my heart at any
moment, on any and every day. Christ's coming wasn't limited to that one
single day when ¨the magic〃 had to happen. In fact I came to realize
that this wasn't about magic at all, but about reality. The true meaning
of Christmas is grounded in the profound revelation that God so loves us
that he chose to dwell among us both in Bethlehem and today right in our
families. I came to see how, in Isaiah's words, ¨the glory of the Lord
shall be revealed〃 whenever I am willing to prepare the way of the Lord
into my life. For me, making a straight path in the wasteland usually
has to do with quieting my mind and opening my heart.
The gift for the second week of Advent is that God speaks a reassuring
word of comfort in the midst of our discontent and longing. In this
quiet seasona season we tend to fill up with a lot of noise and frantic
activitymake time daily to listen for the comforting words of God in
your life. Probably the quickest way to begin hearing those words is to
create a daily gratitude list. Set aside five minutes each morning or
evening and take a few deep breaths. When you are settled, start jotting
down whatever comes to your mind that you are grateful for. With a heart
full of gratitude, everything else in our lives will change. We will
begin to see, even in the demands of our Christmas preparations, the
real purpose of those effortscelebrating the Lord's arrival in our life
and the lives of those we love.
Theme: God Speaks Words of Comfort
The prophet Isaiah spoke God's words to the Jewish people in the midst
of their exile in Babylon between 597 and 537 B.C. Their lives were
shattered, the Temple had been destroyed and the memory of it was fading
among their children. In the midst of a discouraging time came words of
comfort. God speaks words of comfort to us today. We can only hear them
if we are open to listening. They are not the words of false comfort
that everything will somehow turn out for the best. They are words that
come to us in the midst of our pain and confusion. They will lead us to
an even greater sense of God's presence in our lives and in our
Advent week 3
Gift 3: God's Love Placed in Your Heart
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be
like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by
the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypta covenant that they
broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the
covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,
says the LORD. I will put my law within them, and write it on their
hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
As a child, every year before Christmas I drew up a list of the toys and
presents that I had my heart set on receiving. Usually there was that
one special item that I just knew would gladden my heart and make me
This week in Advent we focus on hearts: glad hearts, sad hearts, hard
hearts, broken hearts, longing hearts. In the Scriptures much is written
about hearts because the heart represents the person's deepest identity.
Our hearts reveal who we most truly are because they hold what we most
What's in your heart? We can give many answers to that question, and
it's a good question to ponder during this week of Advent. But God has
an answer for that question, too. ¨I will put my law within them, and
write it on their hearts,〃 says the Lord. So in addition to whatever
else might be in your heart, you can also be sure that the law of the
Lord is writtenin permanent inkon your heart. That law is love.
It's time to live out what's in your heart. I know that when I've gotten
confused and lost in my faith there is one sure way to find my way back,
and that is to love somebody. In my confusion, I look around to see who
in my life could use a loving response. The Advent gift this week is the
love God places in our hearts.
Theme: God Calls Us to Conversion of Heart
The bottom line is that we have to take responsibility for ourselves.
The seed of change in our families, in the community, and in the world
begins with answering God's call to meet us and to change our heart. In
the midst of a world going insane, it seems a small thing to do. But one
heart in tune with God can resonate in our families and through our
families and communities into the world.
Advent Week 4
Gift 4: Hope That Lasts
Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
They shall be like a tree planted by water sending out its roots by the
stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay
green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease
to bear fruit.
One day while on a retreat I made a trek across a barren stretch and up
a difficult slope to stand on top of a high plain. As I walked, the
whole area seemed desolate and empty. But once atop the plain I got
another view. From there, in the distance I could see the outline of a
currently dry river bed. It was easily visible because all along its dry
banks, life abounded. From high above, the river bed was like a ribbon
of green and gold. In the brilliant sunshine, green and brown leaves
fluttered on trees and shrubs, whose roots stretched out to be watered
by the stream when the rains came. These roots must have gone deep to
sustain such abundant life even during a long, dry season.
Advent is a time to sink our spiritual roots deep, to let them stretch
out to God, the source of all life. Because we are thus connected with
God, we too can be sources of life to others in the way we live our
daily life. Christmas is not only the season of receiving gifts; it is
even more so the season of taking delight in giving to others. We
emulate what God has done for us and in that we find our deepest joy.
Let us prepare, then, to be generous in offering our family, coworkers,
and neighbors spiritual gifts such as patience, prudence, encouragement,
counsel, faith, hope, and love.
There's a spiritual adage that says, ¨You can't give what you haven't
got.〃 The gift offered during this last week of Advent is the gift of
hope. Let us drink deeply of the spiritual gift of hope that God offers
us. Then we can cherish within us the spirit of Christmas and bring to
others the blessings of the Christ Child every day of the year.
Theme: Hope Helps Us Endure in Difficult Times
We can easily become impatient with God and with one another. Living in
hope means being willing to live courageously day to day. The signs of
change in us will most likely be subtle. Living in hope means that while
Jesus has already come, we are still in the process of letting him
complete the journey into our hearts.
Rev. Fr. Andrew Manickam OFM Cap