Advent always begins in absence. That discontent most of us feel at the beginning of the Holiday Season is not just what belief.net calls “The December Dilemma.” It is real discontent. In December, I always hit a wall. To be enveloped in the expectation of joy is to come face to face with all that is not joy. To be confronted with commercial images of abundance is, quite naturally, to feel my own emptiness and scarcity.
Despite robust calls to repent, to get over it, to pretend joy in the expectation that anything worked on hard enough will eventually become “real,” (remember how your mother always said, ‘put a smile on your face?’), to articulate what is lacking is very difficult. It is always easier to speak about what is there rather than what is not there. That may be why the first week of Advent simply invites us into emptiness. Allow yourself discomfort on this day. Nothing is forever.
Contemplative prayer also invites us into emptiness. Take a few minutes to sit quietly. As you breathe, follow the air as it fills the empty spaces inside you. See your body as empty, the air as that which fills. I find life in what lies outside me, and when I take it in, it becomes me. The mere fact that I must breathe, I must eat, I must drink reminds me that I cannot be sufficient in myself. Breathe quietly. When thoughts or feelings come, make a note of them, then let them go. I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts. Focus simply upon your being. That is enough. I am. That is enough.