The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming” or “visit.” It’s the Latin translation of the Greek word “Parousia” which means presence, arrival, or official visit. Parousia, and thus Adventus by extension, are the biblical words associated with the idea of the Second Coming of Christ, what we more often call these days the “apocalypse” of “Second Coming.” Today the word is most associated with the season beginning four Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas. It’s a time of preparation for the holiday, what the ancients called “feast days.” The first recordings of Advent as a religious celebration to commemorate seem to come from the 4th and 5th centuries when this time of preparation and expectant waiting was practiced through regular fasting.
The secular dictionary defines advent as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. It’s not much different than the religious connotations for the word. It got me thinking about what I do (or don’t) to prepare for the arrival of events or people these days. Not much. Granted I will attentively clean the house when company is coming. I’ll happily cook with intention and care for guests. But in terms of the arrival of ideas, events, and happenings I struggle to do anything. Events, words, actions, decisions seem to be incessant these days, arriving like a running faucet to my face. I don’t’ prepare, nor expectantly wait, as much as manage, minimize and attempt to motivate myself as things come at me. In our Insta-culture rooted in photos and likes, text messages and non-stop political spin most of us are barely keeping our heads above water. It’s no wonder that so many find the calm centering of yoga and tai chi to be so freeing.
Think of the Christmas season – added tasks are combined with this isolating busyness – it’s more about never-completed preparation than about expectant waiting. Our culture and social systems seem to set us up to be in an ever-moving, but never-finished cycle of busyness and noise. Is it any wonder that words have become cheap? That we often don’t believe or trust what others promise us? that we can’t even agree to the truth of what we see together?
What would it mean to slow down (not just in Advent)? To be expectant on a daily basis? Trusting, living as if something is going to happen, something to prepare for, not out of dread, but out of excitement, profound awe, and genuine passion?
How can you approach today with such intentional preparation, expectant waiting, genuine passion?