WE’RE in the fourth week of Advent, and it will be Christmas next week! Are you prepared? Prepared to welcome the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus?
As I’ve said, the Advent liturgies have allowed us to see in greater depth the meaning of Christmas, the coming of Jesus, the Word-made flesh.
For its last week, Advent helps us reflect on the true meaning of peace, which the fourth candle represents. The Scriptures give us vibrant and powerful images of peace. My favorite ones are from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (11:6-9)
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors; together, their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s hair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
But peace is a state that God wants us to work for. It’s not just something he gives, but one that we have to be open to and willing to achieve.
To have peace in one’s heart and mind, we must be willing to make space for prayer, stillness, mindfulness, and a mere enjoyment of the present moment and the simple gifts of daily life. We must also see with wonder the graciousness of God, which is at times hidden beneath the vicissitudes of life.
Hence to attain peace, we must put on the same attitude that Elizabeth demonstrated in this Sunday’s Gospel. It’s the attitude of awe at seeing the workings of God in Mary, her cousin, as we perceive it in her words:
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
We can attain this attitude, a gift of the Holy Spirit, by a daily practice of gratitude even amid hardships and loss. An example of this daily practice is gazing at pictures of our loved ones, even those who departed, and thanking God for being significant parts of your journey. Another one is just sitting quietly while listening to soothing Christmas music and drinking coffee and enjoying the present moment of being alive.
To experience peace, a deep connectedness must happen between and among people through courageous, honest, emphatic, and caring, and mutual conversations. I would assume that this was the dynamic of the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.
This Christmas, I wish you and your loved one peace of mind, heart, and spirit through a life filled with the gifts of wonder, awe, and deep relationship with God, your family, and friends!
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.