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An Advent Message
November 23, 2020

 

 

Dear Friends,

During these darkest and shortest days of the year – and in the midst of a pandemic that is steadily gaining its grip on our world, not losing it – I have found myself reflecting on how important it is to hold onto hope, to keep hope alive. But, to be honest with you, it’s not always easy. Some days are better than others. And something tells me that your experience is probably much the same. There are so many things that militate against hope, aren’t there? So many things can cause us to become cynical and sour.

Of course, some people are naturally inclined to be more hopeful than others. Maybe you are among them. Speaking for myself, I’d have to own that sometimes my Irish melancholy and fatalism can get the best of me! However, in my better days, I am able to see the bright side, and I thank God for that.

And people, of course, look for hope – and find hope - in many different places. Many of us, these days, find the growing likelihood of the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19 to be a real source of hope although, as we all know, there are people – an alarming percentage, it seems – who make it clear that they have no intention of availing themselves of a vaccine when it does become available. And in the wake of a bruising national election, there are tens of millions of people who are hopeful about a new administration taking over in Washington, but you hardly need me to tell you that there are nearly as many millions who are disbelieving and anything but hopeful at the prospect! All this to say that it’s somewhere between difficult to impossible – if we look at the world scene and the national scene - to come to any kind of agreement on what we have to be hopeful about.

But enough of the war between hope and hopelessness! Let me remind you of a reason we all have to be hopeful. We are about to enter the month of December, and on the Church’s calendar, that means the beginning of Advent, our great season of expectant hope. It’s no accident that Advent comes during the very darkest days of the year. In Christian antiquity, when a date for celebrating Christmas was settled on (no one, of course, knew what time of year Christ was born), the time of the winter solstice was chosen – the time when pagans celebrated the feast of Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun). What more appropriate time to mark the coming of Christ into our world, Christ who is the Invincible Sun (and Son!), Christ who is our light in darkness, our hope!

Who doesn’t love Advent with its purple vestments, its haunting melodies, its flickering candles, its ringing bells, its quiet anticipation, its sheer – if restrained – joy? And this year, more than any I can remember, we need Advent. We really do. In 2020, more than ever before, we need a ray of light in darkness, we need a rekindling of hope, the hope that the coming of Christ at Christmas brings.

 Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could anticipate that Coming with the joy and excitement that children have at Christmas? And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would not only look with wonder at the Christ child, poor and vulnerable, lying in the manger, but also look with love at the Christ living in so many of our sisters and brothers who are as poor and vulnerable as he was?

 We have had to let go of so many of our beloved traditions this year. And I am painfully aware that many of us are isolated and homebound, separated from our families, friends and loved ones at the very time we most look forward to being together. But let me offer just a few suggestions on how we can still enter into Advent this year, feeding our spirits and finding Christ in our brothers and sisters.

  •  Mass. We have four Masses every weekend, and more and more of you are coming. It’s our most important prayer, and if you’re able to, it’s the perfect Advent prayer. If you’re concerned about being around a lot of people, consider slipping into the Cathedral for daily Mass at 8:00am during the week, where you’ll encounter much smaller numbers and a serene and quiet atmosphere.

  •  Musical Prayer from the Cathedral. Even though we can’t pack the Cathedral for our December concerts, we can still enjoy the peace and beauty of Advent music. Each Friday during Advent, at 6:30pm, join in a short livestream concert. It’s a wonderful way to experience a half hour of pure beauty at the end of the week.

  •  The Advent Giving Tree is online this year. Visit the Cathedral website to see a wish list and as you do your Christmas shopping, consider also buying a gift for someone who needs it—whether a young mother living in poverty, a youth in juvenile detention, an immigrant family, or a child of migrant workers in the Skagit Valley.

  •  Advent Readings and Carols. We can’t gather in person for Advent Readings and Carols this year, but tune in on Sunday, December 20 at 6:30pm for a livestream service that will help prepare our hearts and spirits for the coming of Christmas.

 My friends, during these days of the pandemic when we might be inclined to turn in on ourselves a bit - chafing against the limitations placed on us and worrying about the future over which we have no control – perhaps the thought that we can be a source of hope for others will charge our batteries and re-focus our energies as we reach out in love to those who have far less reason to hope than we do. Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to celebrate Christmas – and capture the meaning of Christmas – during an Advent and Christmas unlike any other we’ve ever known or, please God – ever will know!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303