Every morning at 5:30, the overhead lights and the heavy metal hand bell ripped me from sleep and seared my eyes. I tore off the blankets, slid onto my knees, kissed the cold dormitory floor while responding in Latin: ex hoc nunc et usque in sæculum saeculi. Never since have I been so rudely roused. That was in the postulantship, December 1957.

Yet its abrasive memory comes around on the eve of the First Sundays of Advent; in Mark’s eschatological discourse, Jesus describes the chilling conditions of global collapse, then urges, Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. That time refers to the Parousia or Second Coming of Christ.

And in First Corinthians we read, he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day of our Lord Jesus Christ—directives replete with mystery and offered for our reflection, during these uncertain times.

Multiple life changes have already made many heavy-lidded, disoriented, and dispirited. In vain, do we petition leaderless leaders, wherever we find them.

Even further does Covid’s darkness compound this malaise—all the more critical to continue seeking hope’s flickering within our psyches. To fan it into fuller light requires time off, alone, listening to silence and learning from it, not partying around the protective edges of the virus, until numb.

From such inner work, more of our shadow surfaces for which we cry, “Mercy!”—an austere yet paradoxically enriching life-path to observe during the next four weeks of Advent.  

We’re still preparing, with help …