Father Gerald O’Collins tells us that in Italian there are two words for “future”: futuro and avvenire. Futuro means the same as our word future. It suggests something growing out of the present. Avvenire, however, is like our word advent. It is not the present that is causing it; rather, it is coming to us from the future—something or someone is on the way to us, approaching us. It is not something we can make happen by behaving in a certain way. We cannot even know about it without special help. We ourselves cannot make it happen. We cannot hasten its approach. Avvenire (advent) creates a sense of expectancy. We just have to wait for it. Nevertheless, it is near, it is bearing down on us, the time is short. God is approaching us and approaching us fast! “The kingdom of God is at hand!” says Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, “Repent and believe the good news!”
There is no better place and time than Advent for getting ready to welcome the in-breaking of our God. . . . We sense that something is about to happen; God is moving to meet us. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’ cries John the Baptist. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord! cries our Church, calling us in its Advent rituals to open ourselves to the mystery about to unfold before our eyes.”
And so we wait for God, in hope and in patience, even in excitement. Theologian Paul Tillich reminds us: “Even as we wait, the power of God is already working within us. Though we do not grasp God, God certainly and at every moment grasps us. If we wait in patience, we experience . . . that for which we wait—the great transforming power of God in our personal and historical life.”
Advent places us, then, as seekers before the mystery that is God. We are those who yearn to see God’s face, knowing that in the light of this vision we find our completeness as human beings. We find ourselves; we do not make ourselves. Advent and Christmas remind us of the amazing truth that God enters freely, willingly, and lovingly into our poor and limited human situation. God, the great, ungraspable source of all goodness and being, steps into our personal and communal experience as one of us. God becomes poor as we are poor. God shares completely the life that is ours. Advent opens us more and more to this realization and helps us expect the great graces (gifts) that God has always in store for us. God is coming into our lives in ever new ways. Let us be ready!