Advent and the deeper truths


Recently I read something I had written about Advent in an essay rather a while ago, and in it I pointed out that this holy season every year is a healthy kind of crisis.

The Chinese character for "crisis" consists of two strokes: one stands for "danger" and the other "opportunity."  Advent is an opportunity to think deeply about Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  If The Four Last Things are dangerous subjects, they also are an opportunity to be rescued from living life superficially. The tradition of preaching on these mysteries is especially important when silly worldliness distorts the world.

Without Advent, the only thing to do is to "rush" Christmas, with celebrations without much purpose.  That turns Christmas inside out and can even make it depressing.  Superficial Christmas is "joy without a cause" as G.K. Chesterton said in 1911 in his epic poem, The Ballad of the White Horse.  He also said a couple of years earlier:  "There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes."

Our Lord spoke of people who "loved the dark rather than the light" (John 3:19), and we see that today in those who would ban any mention of Christmas.  The tendency to set up Christmas decorations before Christmas is at least a clumsy way of expressing a desire for light rather than dark, but it is futile without a moral awareness of what light and dark are.

Advent is awkward because its mysteries are not the sort of things entertainers dressed as elves sing about.  While the Church calls attention to reality, avuncular clergymen often succumb to fantasy themselves, with Christmas parties in Advent and wreaths without reason.  Of course, this is illogical, because it contradicts the way the Logos arranged the world.  The Logos, or the Word, is Jesus himself, who uttered all things into being by saying, "Fiat" — "Let there be."  And the first thing he let there be was light:  "Light from Light" as the Creed chants it.  But the only way to recognize the illogic of Christmas without Advent is to "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

The choice of darkness rather than light is a preference for the Prince of Darkness rather than Christ the Light.  The best way to walk in the Light is to get rid of the darkness in the soul, and so Advent is a prime time for confessing sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Then the penitent is re-united with the Light of the World. Christ sheds light on Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell, giving moral cogency to the mystery of life itself.  "He is before all things, and by him all things are held together" (Colossians 1:17).  As the highest truths are very simple, the simplest logic is this:  Without the Christ of Christmas, all things fall apart.




Father George William Rutler. "Advent and the deeper truths."  From the Pastor (December 1, 2013).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.


Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2013 Father George W. Rutler

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