Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).
As churches across the globe enter into the third week of Advent this Sunday, the tone within shifts as quiet expectancy momentarily gives way to exuberant joy. Even as a kid, I welcomed “pink candle Sunday.” Not just because the presiders wore rose vestments or we sang a catchy “Rejoice” round in children’s choir, but because Christmas, and the beloved chaos that accompanied it—was not far away, but quite near.
Despite my efforts to keep the season, my “grown-up” self can’t help approaching “pink candle Sunday" with a bit of an inward groan. Christmas can’t be that close. There is too much left to do: Gift ideas to be had, travel plans to make, work to complete. “The Lord is near?” At times, the evidence seems scarce. We are hurtling toward the darkest days of the year: The sun sinks long before I leave the office. On December 18, Old St. Pat’s Church will host the Chicago Homeless Persons' Memorial, remembering those on the street who have lost their lives, often in the most brutal days of winter. And in the faces and voices of friends and family, I see and hear the pain, struggle, and loss which darken and chill hearts during holidays boasted to be “merry and bright.” To obey Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” seems disrespectful, a sacrilege.
It takes the growing light of the Advent wreath to improve my dim vision, so I can see the radiant smiles of students turning in finals, as well as the glowing faces of two dear co-workers awaiting infants to be born yet this month and in January. And this weekend, I will share dinner with friends brought together by CTU. I recall also that next week, I will share prayer and fellowship with a faith community eager to celebrate Christmas, despite their shared challenges of mental illness. This Sunday morning, as my parish community lights that pink candle, and the subdued church lights are slowly raised, I will remark at how well we could still see one another, even before the light was full.
The antiphon for December 21, the darkest night of the year, begins: O Oriens – O Rising Sun – O Morning Star. It is at once holy madness and Divine sense:
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadow put to flight.
As the sun sets outside my office window tonight, I know the Light is coming.
Angela Paviglianiti, Director of Admissions | firstname.lastname@example.org | 773.371.5445