“Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope. … It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above, 1986.
Hope and Peace. Both are core tenets I strive to remember at all times. While peace is a gift promised to the people of Israel as a reward for their fidelity, it came into the world only with the coming of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. It is the hope conveyed in that event that brings me peace when I am able to focus and am not distracted by the things the world tells me are important, especially during this time of year.
In one of my favorite scenes from the movie The Two Towers, Sam is talking to Frodo about memories and stories and hope. These serve as reminders that there is some good in this world. That there are things worth fighting for. By this fight I’m not referring to a military-style of fighting, but instead of the interior battle being waged in our hearts and in our minds. We lose our inner peace through sin, through pride and by not being sincere with ourselves and with God. Peace may be lost through impatience (been in a retail store the past few days?); or when we are unable to see the providential hand of God in times of difficulty. Our memories of the birth at the center of history are pushed back into the recesses of our minds while we are preoccupied with the news of the day or by our own pride.
One of the ways I’ve found to combat my pride and fight for peace is through the confessional. It has provided me a way to recover the peace that I’ve lost through sin or by my failure to recognize and relate to his grace. Pope John Paul II, in an address he gave in Rome in 1986 (the same year that the man who would be his successor wrote the quote I cited in the first paragraph) said: “Peace with God, the result of justification and the rejection of sin; peace with our fellow-men, the fruit of love dispersed by the Holy Spirit; peace with ourselves, the peace of conscience proceeding from victory over our passions and over evil.”
The recovery of peace, if it is lost, is one of the best signs of love for those around us. This peace is also the first task in preparing our hearts for the hope that is the coming of the infant Christ.
Is the path you are taking towards the Light of Christmas and the manger blocked by obstacles you’ve allowed or even placed there yourself? In what ways are you going to clear the path not just for yourself, but for those you interact with each day?