Eating Without Hunger

In Christianity on December 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

“Whenever the Church dons solemn purple vestments, it always means that serious question are being set forth . . . ,” wrote Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., in Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons and Prison Writings, 1941-1944. I’m grateful to the editors of Magnificat for including Fr. Delp’s meditation in their December 2012 issue.

As I’ve reflected on my own response to Advent this year, the following analogy came to mind:

To seek to enjoy Christmas, without Advent, is like seeking to obtain the satisfaction a good meal provides, without hunger.

This, perhaps, is the primary cause of our oft-cited disillusionment with Christmas. For, like the hunger that prompts us to eat—indeed, makes us eager to do so—to come to Christmas without sensing any need for it leaves us wondering, “Why I am even doing all of this . . . the decorating, the shopping, the gatherings? I’m exhausted. I’d have been happier with a warm bath!”

Christmas celebrates the coming of Christ. But it’s easy for that to become an abstraction, an cheery, semi-sacred tradition. Fr. Delp’s words help refocus our attention where it belongs. Christmas celebrates the coming of our Savior! To understand this event’s immense significance, we must connect Christmas to the hunger, the need, that makes it meaningful.

That hunger is expressed in the deep longings we feel; the dissatisfaction; the sense of “something-not-right-ness.” The longer we meditate on this, the more likely we are to realize that not-right-ness is at least partly our fault—the result of our failings, of our sin. The not-right-ness is the result of what we have done and what we have left undone. What are those actions (and failures to act) in your life? In mine?

Self examination makes us realize we need a Savior! We are, in Fr. Delp’s words, facing one of life’s serious questions. God be thanked that, in the despair to which our examen can drive us, we also can exclaim with St. Paul, “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me?”¹

God be thanked, we can answer that question as St. Paul did: “Who will deliver me? Jesus Christ our Lord!”

May the purple garments of Advent remind us of our need, and may we give thanks always to God for His gracious response in giving His Son, our Savior. Let us approach our Heavenly Bread with true hunger and deep gratitude.

¹ Romans 7:24a

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