Dec. 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Second Sunday of Advent.
The Church is simultaneously universal and local. At the earliest, she had little trouble adapting herself to peoples and climes. The conversion of the Irish and Mexicans were fruitful transitions: the Irish recognized the truths they had always observed and at last saw their wellsprings; Our Lady appeared as sister and maiden among the native peoples of Mexico.
The Church cast its roots in Europe and saw that her children needed Advent in winter. Winter, especially in the farthest northern reaches, must have seemed an enemy to life itself, shutting the world in cold and dark and banishing memory of sunshine.
Advent comes in December because that is when it is winter. Winter comes in December because that is when it is Advent.
While frost puts earth and nature to sleep, its chill lends me a new alertness; something familiar comes with the first thrill of autumn, rushing withered leaves and lifting them in invisible undulating currents--and higher, under the wings of geese flying south. Advent tells me, "Listen! Watch! Be still! The Bridegroom is coming, be wakeful!"
You've met the feeling--it may be in anticipation of homecoming or a special event. Children know it well who lie awake or fall asleep in armchairs on Christmas Eve, watching for the arrival of Santa Claus. The expecting woman and adoptive parents are tuned for signs of stirring in the dark, the first warm dark of the womb. It is not a wary watching, but a thrilling one. Any moment now. . . a sweet and painful tending of the flame of anticipation.
That hitch in your chest, the feeling that your heart might leap at any moment, as it watches for the sign--only say the word!--is held back by the thinnest of tethers; the waiting. The waiting is both discipline and gift. It distills and purifies, hardens our intentions into a fine mold, and makes us worthy of that for which we watch. Like the sweet buildup of the marriage act between spouses, the not-having, the un-being is as good as the thing itself. It tells us, in that singular and familiar Christian truth, that we are not, and He Is ("I Am"), and that this separation is the very reason--oh happy fall!--for our consummation.
Christmas is coming--the pivotal moment when God Himself penetrated His Creation, and changed everything, forever.