Over the next four weeks, the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton will reflect on Mother Seton’s lifelong journey of Advent. We’ll meditate upon how she walked the path each of us must walk and learn from her what it means to cry “Maranatha! Come, Lord!” We hope you journey with us.
Every year, for four weeks, the Church remembers what it means to wait for the Savior. We do our remembering during the Northern Hemisphere’s darkest season, when leaves have fallen and northerly winds blow.
In most places, creation grows quieter in December. People retreat indoors, and animals settle in for their long winter’s sleep. Humanity being humanity, however, fills the quiet with busyness. December has most of us racing to buy gifts, decorate trees, and meet deadlines for work and school.
Into the busyness, though, the Church speaks. She invites us to slow down, turn our eyes away from to-do lists, and towards the people who waited in darkness for the coming of Christ.
Many long centuries separate us from the people of Israel. But during Advent, we remember how like them we are.
We remember that, like them, we live in darkness without Jesus.
We remember that, like them, we are called to repent—to turn from sin and towards God.
We remember that even now, in the age of the Church, we still wait for Jesus. We wait for the One who will wipe away our tears and make all things new.
Lastly, we remember that, like them, we cannot know true joy until we know Christ. He is the source of joy. Every experience of joy flows from him and points back to him. Brightly-lit trees and brightly-wrapped packages are all well and good. But it’s Jesus, the babe born in Bethlehem, who makes Christmas truly joyful.
These are the themes the Church recalls in her Sunday Gospel readings during Advent: darkness, repentance, waiting, joy. These also are the themes that run through every life. Each of us struggles through times of darkness. Each of us is called to spend our days turning to God again and again. Each of us, as we grow in love for Jesus, waits for him with greater and greater expectation. And each of us only finds true joy when we find him.
Life really is one long Advent. It is an anxious expectation for the God who loves us, who heals what is broken, and who will usher us into a life of love, untouched by loss.
We see this clearly in the lives of the saints and especially in the life of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Constant loss and constant grief kept her ever aware of the world’s darkness. She understood that the Christian life is always a life of repentance. She lived in anticipation of encountering the Jesus she loved. And when she did—in His Word, His Church, and the Eucharist—joy followed.
Over the next four weeks, as the Church journeys through Advent, the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton will reflect on Mother Seton’s lifelong journey of Advent. We’ll meditate upon how she walked the path each of us must walk and look at how we can learn from her what it means to cry “Maranatha! Come, Lord!”
We hope you journey with us.
Questions for Further Reflection
- How does the culture make it difficult for us to enter into the spirit of Advent?
- Do you have a favorite Advent tradition? If so, what?
- What is one thing you can do this Advent, to prepare your heart for Jesus’ coming?
INTRODUCTION | An Advent Journey with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
WEEK ONE | Hope in the Darkness
WEEK TWO | To Trust God and Repent
Emily Stimpson Chapman is an award-winning Catholic writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her books include The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food & Faith Meet (Emmaus Road, 2016); The American Catholic Almanac: The Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed America (Image, 2014), These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body (Emmaus Road, 2013), and The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years (Emmaus Road, 2012). Chapman writes regularly about faith, hospitality, and motherhood on Instagram (@emilystimpsonchapman) and less regularly at her blog, The Catholic Table (www.thecatholictable.com).