An Advent Reflection
by Neil O’Connell, OFM
This reflection on Advent, which this year begins Nov. 29, is scheduled to appear in The Catholic Advocate, the publication of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
Francis of Assisi identified himself as “the herald of the Great King.” Baptized as Giovanni Baptista or “John the Baptizer,” he no doubt wished to imitate his patron, thus Francis is the perpetual Advent person and Franciscan men and women are perpetual Advent people.
As a Franciscan, then, I am a strict Adventist. I avoid doing Christmas things prior to Christmas Eve, since Advent has its own rich and enveloping experience.
A Franciscan Advent is apocalyptic and forward-looking in a creative sense. We stand erect and raise our eyes as we do cosmic and environmental housecleaning for the arrival of the Great King who makes all things new.
A Franciscan Advent is renovational. We straighten out paths twisted by confusion and anxiety, we fill in valleys of poverty and alienation, we bring down mountains of pride and self absorption, we smooth out roads roughened by violence and racism so that all may plainly see the Great King who is always healing.
A Franciscan Advent is evangelical. We announce and live the good news of the Great King who embraces sinners and who refines them into nourishing wheat for others.
A Franciscan Advent is Marian. We, with Mary, bearing the embryonic Word Made Flesh within us, hasten to those once empty to make present to them the Great King who makes their whole being leap with joy.
Since Franciscans do not belong to an exclusive club, they welcome all to be companions in observing a Franciscan Advent. Though Advent concludes prior to the Christmas Vigil, Franciscan women and men and their companions remain adventist for the rest of the year as they herald the Great King in his ministry, passion, death, resurrection and sending of the Spirit.
— Fr. Neil, a former president of St. Bonaventure University, is the Catholic campus minister at Manhattan Community College and Herbert H. Lehman College in the Bronx, where he is also an adjunct professor of history.