This is a post about Advent, about Mary, and about how the beauty of language can change what we think we know.
But before I get into it, there are few things you need to know about me:
1) I’m an English professor, and for most of my college and professional life, I kept that pretty separate from my faith life. It’s not that I thought my career and my faith were inconsistent with each other – just that there didn’t seem to be much overlap. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who is a theology professor in which I expressed jealousy that his work with students could potentially aid in their salvation. I feared that there was a lack of significance in my own work.
As I grew more in both my faith and my career, however, I started to see overlap. I began to notice how great literature, even literature that is not explicitly religious, almost always contains aspects of truth, beauty, and goodness, and I started to notice the prevalence of stories of redemption and grace, even in the work of authors who seemed anti-religious in their work. I started to think about how the beauty of art can’t help but lead us to God.
the beauty of art can’t help but lead us to God.
I’ve had a less-than-enthusiastic relationship with Mary for most of my faith life. For a long, long time, I just couldn’t get into the passive, meek, mild woman I understood her to be. I couldn’t get excited about the rosary and couldn’t get past my sense that only old, conservative, traditional Catholics could connect with her.
3) I’m kind of an Advent junkie. Whenever people ask me what my favorite season or holiday is, I say something nice and expected, like Autumn or Easter or Thanksgiving. But, secretly, it’s Advent all the way. I love the quiet expectation, the stepping back, the way the dimmer lights and quieter music reflect the shorter days and hibernation of winter. I love the wreath and the candles and “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”