Spe Salvi at a small Catholic liberal arts school
Do you know how ridiculously, ludicrously hard it is to be ironic during Advent?
I don't mean the busyness,
although that is there,
I mean all that sticky, tenacious, fragrant hope
seeping through the seams of our day;
all that expectation breaking out
in the strangest places;
those lit eyes,
straining for they-don't-know-quite-what.
Tonight I went to our university's Advent Light service;
the night before final exams.
The chapel was full,
the space was dark,
everyone carefully held lit candles,
and we sang and listened to Scripture and smiled at each other,
bleary from the study and grading,
Catholics and Protestants and students and faculty and staff in this unusual place,
Everyone else sang and smiled.
God, I love these students.
And goodness knows, I know more than I want to
about their assorted bad decisions, habits and practices.
But they have their full share of pain and tragedies as well:
One of them is in a coma, and has been since August.
Others have been hurt in some of the worst ways possible.
Some don't "fit in," and
some are barely passing classes.
Some go home in a few days to disastrous family situations.
Some struggle with addictions more than they want to admit.
Some have family in Iraq.
Some lost family in Iraq.
I could go on and on and on.
But they're here, and smiling, and happy, singing that whisper of a song:
what Child is this?
Somehow, for this hour, they have a full share of hope.
As the professor doing the reflection asked students
to reflect the light of Christ into the darkness of human life
(go! do it! now!)
I watched the students.
They hung on every word.
They got it, for this moment.
Then, in typical Minnesota fashion, we plunged into the 10 degree cold
(with a brisk wind besides)
and walked across campus to a large fir tree,
which was blessed, and lit,
and people sang every verse of "Joy to the World" with more gusto than you could imagine possible
in such conditions.
Thank you, God, for hope. In hope we are saved.
But I can't do irony under these conditions.