OLG has been something of a paradise this past week. Advent has afforded us a lot of joy here. We had the school Christmas concert on Tuesday, complete with a fire drill. On Wednesday we began the novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has continued in great spirit each night since. On Thursday the women of the parish had a wonderful celebration of Tables of Christmas. I sang to them. On Friday, we had our First Fridays program and it drew a record crowd again this month. Yesterday there were about 500 things going on here in the evening–the novena, Msgr’s talk, the manger party, RCIA, a basement full of kids, who knows what else.
This coming week is similar: there is a lot in store. Tuesday is a Holy Day of Obligation, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Tuesday also starts the year of mercy. At the school we will start Cafeteria Confessions this week. Fr. Jim Farrell is coming to offer an Advent program on Wednesday night. We will also have two Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations, one Friday in English at 6:30pm and then one on Saturday at 5:30pm in Spanish. Both will be wonderful. That’s just a slice of what’s happening. Read your bulletin. And your own personal calendar of festivities. A lot of joy.
There is a lot of holiday cheer. That’s a good thing. You know, that word “joy” pops up in the first and second reading and in the psalm. The thing is, Advent is a time not only to look forward to the joy that awaits us in the manger, on that beautiful day of joy that is Christmas, but it is also a time to realize how much joy there is in the waiting. Couples who are engaged know this: even as they await that perfect wedding day, they enjoy the time that leads up to it. I know it from having been in seminary for six beautiful years; yes, I looked forward to the end, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Except the exams. The lines waiting to get onto the roller coaster or to the buffet line…some of the best conversations happen there. There is joy in the waiting. And the eager waiting makes us more excited for what we await. It makes us run towards it, as the collects at our Advent Masses have had us praying.
St. Joseph knew this. I’ve been working my way through a book by Edward Thompson called The Life and Glories of St. Joseph. Thompson says that, for Joseph, that first Advent was something of a paradise. It was a paradise because he had Mary, and he had Jesus in Mary. This week we remember how many joys come to us through Mary, especially during Advent. It is a very Marian week you know. We celebrate the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday, that is, we celebrate that she has been “full of grace” since the start. We also celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose shrine in Mexico is the most visited in the Americas. We’ll have an English celebration on the vigil (Fri, Dec 11 at 6:30pm) and a Spanish celebration on the day (Sat, Dec 12, 5:30pm). And we celebrate St. Ambrose, a fourth century saint with a fierce devotion to Our Lady. He said that she is the mother of salvation, the mother of all graces. No wonder Advent was a joyful paradise for St. Joseph; he had Mary. And so do we.
We thank our God today for the paradise, the joys he gives us during Advent and we look forward to the paradise that God has in store for us in Bethlehem.