Advent candles and a wreath help bring focus to the time before the coming of our Lord. This Advent, may we find greater resonance with Mary. CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

The season is still about the coming of Christ

By 
  • November 22, 2020

Getting ready for Christmas in the middle of a pandemic will certainly be different.

There will be no parties, no face-to-face reconnecting with old friends. This is the year to stay home, stay safe and perhaps contemplate through the darkening days what it is we really are waiting for. 

Guides are ready to feed our spiritual imaginations with online Advent retreats. Waiting through Advent requires spiritual discipline, said Josephine Lombardi, who has a retreat planned for Dec. 12.

“We do need patience. We need self-regulation, for sure,” said the St. Augustine’s Seminary professor. “And we need to persevere while we’re waiting.”

For Lombardi, the focus has to be on Christ coming into our world. We all know the incarnation as the first coming of Jesus. And we know the Church awaits the second coming. “But mystics also speak of the third coming of Jesus — meaning Him being born in us and us becoming more Christ-like, becoming another Christ.”

There has often been an emphasis on priests acting as “alter Christus” or “other Christs” in the celebration of the Eucharist. But in our everyday lives, all Christians are called to be other Christs to the people around them, said Lombardi.

The goal is “humility and self-knowledge,” she said. “Being open and humble enough for the Holy Spirit to reveal those aspects of our personality that need healing and refinement, so that we can become the people that God has called us to be.”

Roman Catholics looking for another perspective could turn to Fr. Charbel Bousamra, pastor of St. Elias Maronite Church in London, Ont. Bousamra is teaming up with the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Michael’s College to present a “Nativity Retreat” on Dec. 5.

No one is quite sure who first said Ex Oriente Lux, Ex Occidente Lex (Out of the East comes light. Out of the West comes the law), but the old saying points to the full breadth of Christian tradition. 

Eastern Church spirituality might help people draw a little closer to Jesus and the world He came from, Bousamra said. By drawing on the life of St. Ephrem the Syrian, he hopes to pull his listeners into the cultural and spiritual world of Jesus and His disciples.

“It’s important that we get out of our routine and out of our typical ways of seeing things, and look at the truths of our faith from different perspectives,” he said.

The Jesuit take on Advent are available in four bilingual, one-hour Zoom sessions on Nov. 17, Nov. 24, Dec. 1 and Dec. 8.

“Ignatian spirituality is a way for people to explore the spiritual side of life during this very stressful time of COVID and to prepare for the birth of Jesus inside themselves — for Christ to be born within them during this coming season,” said Patricia O’Reilly, Jesuits of Canada director of Ignatian education projects.

You can registsr for Josephine Lombardi’s retreat here

To get a Zoom link for Fr. Bousamra’s retreat, send an email to masif@utoronto.ca.

A free Zoom link for the four Jesuit events can be had by emailing poreilly@jesuits.org.

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