Advent Visit and Solemn Vespers, 2017
The Sisters of Charity welcomed family and friends to Caritas Christi for the annual Advent Visit and Solemn Vespers. Guests enjoyed refreshments, shopped, and shared nonperishable food items and cash donations for the Food Pantry of Rendu Services. Members of the Community Choir, the Bell Choir, Dr. Mark A. Boyle and Una Voce: The Chamber Choir of Seton Hill University, as well as instrumentalists, Michele Boulet and Nick Filotei joined Michelle Kardos, Director of Music, in lifting hearts and minds to God with music. The prayers and song will stay in the hearts of all who attended throughout the Advent Season. Sister Brigid Marie Grandey delivered the following beautiful Scripture Reflection to the 275 persons in attendance.
SCRIPTURE REFLECTION FOR ADVENT SOLEMN VESPERS, DECEMBER 3, 2017
Sister Brigid Marie Grandey, SC
For while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of
her course, thy almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from thy royal throne . . .
These words invade our hearts as Advent begins. A newer translation says: “For while gentle silence enveloped all things and night in its swift course was now half gone . . .” We love the idea of quiet or gentle silence as we enter into Advent. To many, Advent is a favorite season with its darkness, candle flames, fragrant pine branches, cold starry nights, peace — as we await the “almighty Word.”
Yet, how difficult it is in our world of 2017 to remain in “gentle silence” even as we prepare to celebrate the “leaping” of Jesus into our midst. Where is this gentle silence? Where will we find physical silence, spiritual silence, in our war-torn, technological world? Sometimes we don’t realize that we don’t have this silence.
I live in Brookline in the city of Pittsburgh on a busy street traveled by buses, cars, and firetrucks. We are constantly surrounded by the sounds of the city, sometimes not even realizing our total immersion. In contrast, this summer I was in an area just outside Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, making an appeal for the Sisters of Charity missions. On Sunday morning, I arrived quite early at the small country-like church. The doors were locked and no one was around. As I sat on the steps waiting, I became conscious of a great peace. Then I realized the only sound was the chirping of a few birds. All things were in quiet silence. Jesus seemed very near.
Much in our world and in our lives is more like the busy city than the quiet early morning. Our days are full of noise, of many interests, of many concerns, of many real worries. The weeks before Christmas have become the busiest of our year. All year though we respond constantly to outside stimulation and to our own scattered thoughts. In a word, our lives have become fragmented. We see this fragmentation in smaller things, such as in our own constant activity and in the “Christmas rush” we may experience yearly. Our cell phones have compounded this fragmentation. We are pulled in many directions by the ringing of the phone, by the sounds of arriving e-mails and text messages. We experience fragmentation in the “noise” of modern media, in the larger role technology, a marvelous phenomenon in itself, plays in our world. We hear of “wars and rumors of wars” and are shaken by global events.
Pope Francis speaks of global fragmentation in the encyclical letter “Laudato Si.” Some circles, he says, maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, that global hunger and poverty will be solved by greater prosperity. While he believes that technology can be intensely helpful in concrete applications, he cautions that technology can lead to a fragmentation of knowledge and a loss of an appreciation for the whole. We must be free to seek the direct benefit of people. Pope Francis goes on to say that there is an authentic humanity in our culture, almost unnoticed “like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door” which will enable us to work together as peoples and cultures to seek solutions to problems together, making gentle use of technology for the good of all.
Daily we live in the fragmented world of which Pope Francis speaks. Can we begin to see the whole? Can we direct the sounds in our lives to the joyful praise of God? Can the extra activity at Christmas be intentionally turned into genuine love and concern for our families, for those who need our help? Can we truly be messengers of peace this Christmas and into the future? We could begin by creating “quiet” or “gentle” silence every day during Advent, maybe for just fifteen minutes, as our souls enter more deeply into the mystery of the coming of God to the entire earth.
Of course, we can’t sit all through Advent in “quiet silence.” Nor did the key figures in the Nativity Narratives. Immediately after the Annunciation, Mary, having listened in gentle but amazed silence, to the message of the Angel, went “with haste” into the hill country to visit Elizabeth, to share the message. After the birth of Jesus, the shepherds went “with haste” and found “Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in a manger.”
In the passage from the Book of Wisdom, immediately after speaking of “quiet silence,” when the “Almighty Word” leapt down from heaven, Christ, the All-Powerful Word is depicted as a stern warrior bringing fire and a sword to the earth to conquer evil, to bring the fragmented pieces into a glorious whole.
As we light the Advent wreath today in “quiet silence,” the prayer at Mass for this First Sunday of Advent gives us, not fragments, but the whole message:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the RESOLVE to RUN forth to meet your Christ.