Anticebration

candles-advent
Advent is a good time to listen a bit more closely  to the voices, like those in the Advent scriptures, that call us to look at our lives and our world a bit differently.  During Advent this space will feature stories and reflections by friends whose writing and insights I appreciate.  I hope you will too.
              This first in our series is by Father Chris Rouech.  We have been friends, essentially, since the first day of our studies at Mundelein Seminary.  In addition to being pastor of St. Piux X Parish in Grandville, Mich., he is director of the liturgy office for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.  Like me, he worked as a newspaper reporter before going to the seminary.  TL

Drug manufacturers have dreamed up some pretty creative names for the medications people depend upon for life.

Those with high cholesterol are prescribed Lipitor, which combines the target of the drug, “lipid,” with “tor,” from “atorvastatin,” the trade name for the drug. Then there’s Lunesta, the sleep medication whose name conjures images of the moon and a star.

Along those lines, here’s a new word for Advent and Christmas: Anticebrate. It combines “anticipate” and “celebrate”— two verbs at the heart of Catholic life and liturgy.

Many Catholic Christians think Advent is about preparing for Christmas, and Christmas as a mere celebration of Jesus’ birthday.  But the prayers and Bible texts for these seasons convey a more profound meaning — and a way of being in the world.

We’ll hear from the prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist that God keeps his promises. We’ll also be warned to “watch out” or risk missing God’s gifts and suffering the consequences.

The words that form our new word complement each other. The word “anticipate” expresses a delightful sense of living:

  • to realize beforehand; to anticipate pleasure;
  • to expect; look forward to; be sure of;
  • to think, speak, act, or feel an emotional response in advance.

Culturally, this is what’s happening when we shop for gifts, trim the Christmas tree or prepare for a party. On a spiritual level, a sense of anticipation can accompany every spontaneous prayer, every act of charity, every celebration of the Eucharist.

But what accompanies our anticipation — if we’re honest — is the fear of disappointment. That our efforts will not end in jubilation. That when Christmas actually comes, it will be a letdown; hopes will be dashed.

Therein lies the deep wisdom of Advent and Christmas: As the entire world jingles and jangles with the call for us to do everything possible to summon the perfect expression of “the holidays,” the faithful Christian continues to anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promises long after Dec. 25.

We encounter the same delightful mystery that Joseph, Mary, John the Baptist and all the shepherds, kings and others discover this season: what God promises us in Christ is beyond anything we can fully anticipate or imagine.

Which leads to that second part of our new word: “celebrate.”

Everyone is familiar with the party elements of that word. But that definition also uses words such as “commemorate” (to remember), to “perform with proper rites and ceremonies,” and to “praise wisely” and “make known publically.”

Put anticipate and celebrate together, and we anticebrate. We approach every moment with trust that the world has been saved by God’s son; we anticipate what Jesus will ask us to do; we celebrate this relationship of hope and trust that whatever is not fully here yet will come in God’s good time.

Questions for reflection:

  • What words come to mind when you think of Advent?
  • How do those words differ when you think of Christmas?
  • What are you looking forward to during the seasons of Advent and Christmas?
  • What are you dreading?
  • What are some practical, healthy ways you can anticebrate the holidays?   CR
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