Advent has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love the Advent hymns, readings, and its themes of anticipation, expectation, and hope. If we ever needed a season of hope, it certainly is now, having come through three years of political chaos, social unrest, a devasting pandemic, and economic uncertainty.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

Is our recent turmoil a blessing in disguise? One of my favorite writers, Michael Casey, Benedictine monk, writes about the “grace of discontinuity,” a time when old habits and routines don’t work any longer and we are forced to look to new ways of being and new ways to practice our faith. We are called to a conversion of life, which Casey defines as a process by which the uncreative sameness of our life is fractured and we have the opportunity of reorienting ourselves toward becoming the kind of person God created us to become. Advent is a time for us to acknowledge our need for grace and to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew his work in us.

In his book, The Road to Character, the New York Times columnist David Brooks makes the distinction between our career-oriented, ambitious nature (Adam I) and the interior, moral nature that wants to serve rather than conquer (Adam II). To nurture your ambitious goal-oriented life (Adam I), it makes sense to nurture your strengths. To nurture our moral, self-giving core, it is necessary to confront our weaknesses.[1]

As we move into this Advent season, let’s all do some inner work, beginning with welcoming our failures, frustrations, and life disruptions as opportunities for transformation, finding time for prayer and contemplation, reorienting ourselves toward becoming the kind of person God created us to be, a reflection of Christ.

[1] David Brooks, The Road to Character. (New York: Random House, 2015), xii.

Published by Stephen Isaacson

Stephen Isaacson is Prior of the Cornerstone Community, a lay Benedictine group within Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. He has served in many other roles in the Cathedral and is currently the Co-coordinator of Outreach Ministries at the Cathedral. Prior to his involvement with Outreach or the Cornerstone Community, Steve was Professor of Special Education at Portland State University, where he also served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education. During his career in academia, he authored a number of juried publications and instructional materials.

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