Bishop Barron tell us, “The only way up is down.”
By Brother Joseph Trout, O.P.
Welcome to Advent! This is one of my favorite seasons of the church year, though it can easily get lost, sandwiched between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That really is a shame because of how odd this season is: We begin by thinking about the end of the world. Yes, the Catholic Church begins its new liturgical year and the build-up to Christmas by pondering the end of time.
Of course, we claim the return of Christ in the last days truly is what we all want because he will put an end to suffering and injustice, so it’s not exactly a doomsday message. However, it is still sobering to ponder where all of life is going and to wrestle with the truth that we don’t live in a particularly just world now. I don’t know about you, but I would love for a world without “harm or ruin,” as the prophets promise. I’d also love to live in a world where I don’t make any mistakes that cause pain around me. Alas, that is not this world yet.
That is why advent is a season of hope — hope for the coming of perfect mercy and justice. It’s a gritty virtue for people in need, not the fluffy one often imagined. It’s the virtue of being on a journey towards God and trusting goodness really will reign one day. It’s for those who don’t have everything they want and know they need something more. We need Christ, the light who shines in the darkness. We also need to ponder the darkness if we want to appreciate the light.
Though it says nothing about advent or Christmas, I find Bishop Barron’s video, “Dante and the Spiritual Journey,” a great way to get this season of hope started. Dante’s Divine Comedy tells of the life as a pilgrim and the ways we can get lost on the journey. Barron’s line that catches me every time I watch the video is: “The only way up is down.”
Without spoiling the video for you, Barron reminds us that we have to wrestle with the reality of our sins, the limits of earthly life and finite creation if we ever really want to find joy. We can’t receive the love of God and others this season if we don’t let go of selfishness first. After all, ’tis the season of paradoxes where we begin at the end and embrace the omnipotent God of justice in the form of a defenseless child. So why not go down to go up first?