I have always enjoyed winter. As a child, I enjoyed the activities outdoor, such as sledding, ice skating, and tackle football without the pain. Into my college and seminary years, I enjoyed winter because of the way the campus would slow down due to the temperatures outside as well as the impulse to study and prepare for finals. And even into my priesthood, winter has remained my favorite season, not only because of the hockey season and Crashed Ice (which is sadly not in St. Paul this year), but because it is a season that seems to impose quiet upon the world.
When I use the term “quiet” in this context, I have several different meanings. First, the audible silence is present. Winter is a quiet time. Yes, we have the drone of snow blowers and plows, but once those have passed, it is much quieter outside, especially when we have a strong snowfall. Sound does not travel nearly as far. There is also the quiet in the visual sense as it becomes darker much earlier and stays darker much later. But there is also a quiet of the soul as well. People remain indoors more, they sit around fires, and they drink tea and hot chocolate.
The quiet of winter is not only in the natural realm, but also in our supernatural faith. It is during the winter when Advent begins anew each year. In Advent, we are called to anticipate and look for the arrival of Jesus Christ into our lives. It is a liturgical and spiritual season that beacons us to be a bit quieter. At mass, we skip the Gloria and we remain in prayer.
In last week’s homily, I mentioned that we ought to ask “What do I need to change in my life to allow the arrival of Jesus into my heart at this very moment?” I have a suggested response to my very own homily! To get the most spiritual grace out of Advent, we ought to become a people who cultivate a quiet in our homes for the purpose of paying attention to God. Do we intentionally change our patterns during Advent to create some time of quiet at the end of the day that is oriented toward receiving God? Or do we continue on our usual schedule of dinner, television, news, and then bed? Do we allow the quiet to be a part of our daily routine, especially in Advent? Do we pray the rosary or another contemplative prayer in a more intentionally slow manner, or do we race to through the prayers as normal? Do we turn down the lights a bit and allow the glow of our home-Advent wreath to brighten the house? Do we change the music in our cars from the hyper-active noise of pop and rock to something that encourages contemplation of God’s presence in our lives? Do I set aside the entertaining novels in exchange for books that will draw me to contemplate the infinite love of the Messiah who will be arriving at Christmas?
There are so many ways that we can use the natural and supernatural gifts of winter and Advent for our spiritual benefit. Let us not miss this great gifts from God and use them to receive the graces He has to give us, especially His mercy and love.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl