Life is a journey and Advent is a reminder of that in the cycle of the liturgical year.  It’s not all about counting down the days to Christmas but about discovering our relationship to the Father who is going to reveal his love for us in the Word made flesh. So many people live under a cloud of worry and angst, perpetually stressed and at war with themselves, knowing down deep that they have sold out to the real world, the material world, yet striving for a deeper spiritual life. Having everything they need but wanting more and more.  The devil must have a field day in Advent and at Christmas time feeding people’s greed and selfish desires.  Perhaps in today’s world, the true spirit of Christmas is really a desire for more, not peace and good will to all. 

Advent can be seen then as a time of getting ready for the Lord’s coming.  Well the cynic in us will say well we know when Jesus is coming; it’s only a few weeks away!  The date isn’t important!  In our Cistercian Fathers there was a special emphasis on the 3 Advents of Christ.  Advent is seen as the introduction to this whole mystery. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) sees it as the “sacrament” of the presence of God in his world, in the mystery of Christ at work through his Church, preparing in a hidden, obscure way for the final manifestation of his kingdom.[1]  The third Advent was in the heart of the believer. The twelfth century Cistercians placed a special emphasis on the coming of Christ by his Holy Spirit to the Christian person. They contemplate his hidden birth in our lives, his advent here and now in the mystery of prayer and providence.  Bernard shows the danger of seeing Advent merely as a preparation for Christmas.  It is a real danger in society.  This attitude is dangerous and runs the risk of keeping us centred on our present reality in the flesh, failing to recognize the call that God’s plan reveals—the call for our inner transformation into Christ. The invitation that Christ is giving us, is the call to be ready! He warns:

…the remembrance of this condescension is turned into pretext for the flesh. During those days you may see them preparing splendid clothes and special foods with utmost care—as if Christ at his birth would be seeking these and other such things and would be more worthily welcomed where they are more elaborately offered! Listen to [Christ] as he says… “Why do you so ambitiously prepare clothes for my birthday? Far from embracing pride, I detest it. Why do you so assiduously store up quantities of food for this season? Far from accepting pleasures of the flesh, I condemn them. As you celebrate my coming, you honour me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.… Unhappy is the person who worships pleasure of the body and the emptiness of worldly glory; but happy the people whose God is the Lord.”[2]


[1] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons for Advent and Christmas Season, Cistercian Fathers Series

51, translated by Irene Edmonds, Wendy Mary Beckett, and Conrad Greenia OCSO

(Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2007).

[2] Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon Three: “On the Seven Pillars,” paragraph 2, in Sermons, 20-21.

Posted on November 30, 2014 .