Abellanosa: Advent

Fringes and frontiers

I GREW up thinking and feeling that Advent, like Lent, is a boring season in the Church’s liturgical cycle. For four Sundays, the color is dominantly purple. There is no singing of the Gloria, and the readings are about “waiting” and “coming.” The impatient child in me would always ask why can we not just light all the four candles at once?

In my adult years, however, I have learned to gradually appreciate Advent. This I have understood because of the many experiences in life where waiting cannot but be part of. I’d wait for people I would love to wait, and I’d also have to wait even those that I don’t. There were times when I was sure that I was waiting for a good news, there were also moments, many of them, wherein I was sure that what I was waiting for are coming disasters.

One who does not wait or who cannot wait does not truly live. Life is all about waiting.

It is true that waiting is sometimes if not most of the times hard. Despite the assurances that “I am coming na”, “on my way”, or “see you”– it is just too irritating if not annoying why one cannot just arrive or be on time (as agreed). The more irritating thing is when after several communications, the one expected to arrive would say “sorry, I almost forgot.”

But what can we do? This is life.

Another thing that I appreciate with Advent is the reminder that at some point in our waiting, things become uncertain. Perhaps the promise was made clear. However, it is in the nature of the human person to just feel uncertain about many things despite repeated assurances. It is in the face of uncertainty however that hope emerges. In the Old Testament, hope and faith are closely intertwined. In fact they essentially mean the same. Hope is the expression of he who believes, and it is only he who holds on in faith can truly hope even in the face of the world’s harshest adversities.

The acceptance that there are many uncertainties in life is constitutive of genuine human living. We learn from the philosopher Bertrand Russell that we have to endure “uncertainty even though it is painful”, and this we must “in the presence of vivid hopes and fears”, and this we should if “we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales.”

To endure life even in the face of all combined political, economic, and existential instabilities is a challenge even for those who believe. Sometimes the concept and the construct of God may not even be enough to sustain us in our patience for the promised salvation. We have been assured as we are told that someone will come, but sometimes “it appears that” the promise is not true or probably we were wrong in what we have believed. Who knows? The difference in the answers would depend on “faith.”

And this is why I like Advent. While Christmas has that feeling of being “so divine”, after all, the incarnation is a truth we profess about God’s becoming one with us, Advent is “so human.” The season brings out in us who we truly are. It makes us embrace our anxieties, discomforts, to the point of experiencing so much gloom and darkness.

But it is in the gloominess of life and in the darkness of our experiences that we are forced to hold on to. As I have told my students a number of times “the best ideas in this world are products of humanity’s worst experiences.” It is in the face of the most uncertain of all uncertainties that we can only conclude that yes, it may be the case that no one is going to come, but who knows . . . at least we lived in hope.


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