“In Advent, we proclaim and celebrate our hope and our trust that our God is faithful: that the Lord will come again and again to rescue us, to heal us, to console us, to be with all that he has called into life.
God calls us forward to a new world, to embrace a new future. That is God’s deeper gift to us. His call is not to return to a wonderful place where “everything was wonderful”—be that Bethlehem or the ‘wonderful world’ of our shared past. Our prayer this Advent and always is, therefore, shaped by that hope”. (+Dermot Farrell, Archbishop of Dublin – Advent Message, 2021 – Advent 2021 | Archdiocese of Dublin (dublindiocese.ie)
During Advent, we look back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. Advent 2021 begins on Sunday, November 28th, and ends on Friday, December 24.
During our journey of ‘radical waiting’ this year let us follow in the footsteps of Nano Nagle. Let us contemplate in particular the very sacred moment when, to mark the new foundation of the Presentation Congregation Nano Nagle and her companions welcomed fifty beggars to dinner on Christmas Day 1777. “Modelling their lives on that of the gospel of Jesus, she and her companions waited on them with profound reverence and joy”. A tradition that continued annually until 1887. (See page 37: The Story of Nano Nagle – A Life Lived on the Razor’s Edge, Anne Lyons, pbvm).
Advent Week 1 – Radical Waiting
Nano was resolute in her conviction that she was being sent by God to the poor. As a result ‘she pioneered a socio-religious movement that drew her into communion with the shunned and poorest in society’. She took her place alongside them in a ministry of service. For Nano nothing was more certain than that God was on the side of the poor and vulnerable: in God’s eyes they were the important ones.
Advent – A time of radical waiting
I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God, something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen in me.
To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God moulds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.
Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.
~ Henri Nouwen
Advent Week 2 – For Joy
The Presentation Congregation Gathering 2012 described Nano Nagle as a ‘heart-centred’ woman who immersed herself in the life of Jesus and in turn in the lives of the poor and marginalised of her day.
Those, today, who follow her vision and legacy are challenged ‘to be immersed in the lives of those kept poor, who open us to the Mystery of Love, and to be prophetic voices with them for the transformation of unjust systems locally and globally’.
Seized by the light of God’s truth Nano could no longer conform to expected norms. She became a prophetic voice for her times.
You can prepare
it will come to you
crossing through your doorway
calling your name in greeting
turning like a child
who quickens suddenly
it will astonish you
how wide your heart
for the joy
that finds you
and still so
~ Jan Richardson
Advent Week 3 – the Miracle of God’s Love
If Nano were walking our world today – what burning issues would drive her to a life of self-donation? Our global landscape reveals greed, abuse of power, unjust structures and systems that leave the majority of people endlessly shackled. Can I see the face of Jesus Christ in the caravans of migrants who trek from one unwelcoming country to another or who travel by sea at the peril of their lives? Do I allow the unwanted of the earth to disturb my complacency?
We need lives that show the miracle of God’s love. Nano Nagle is not a figure confined to the past – but someone whose vision is as relevant today as it was in her own time. Nano Nagle was a prophet of Love.
A Blessing for the Advent of Love
blessed are we who see You, O Saviour! the light that dawned so long
ago in that dark stable shining in the
perfection of love given, love received enfolding us into the heart of
Your beauty and glory and bliss.
blessed are we, looking into Your
face, into the gaze of the beloved, the
One who knows us best of all, and
calls us His very own.
receive this, your inheritance: love
has come for you.
“I have come that they might have
life, and that abundantly.”
~ Kate Bowler
Advent Week 4 – Emmanuel, God with Us!
Across the Globe today the charism of Nano Nagle to be love in the world, is cherished by a strong network of sisters, colleagues, associates, students and friends of Nano – the entire Presentation Family. With commitment and creative imagination, they seek to find an entry point in human life where they can make a difference.
By being collaborators with God in the care of humanity and our Earth, they make the gospel vision a reality.
Advent bids us to move (as Nano Nagle did) from the safe and comfortable, to seek new pathways, new strategies, imaginative responses that act as a counterpoint in our world.
We can search for God in the Heavens and yet fail to recognise his face when he comes to us disguised as people.
O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.
~ Malcolm Guite
See Malcolm Guite on the imagination and God-with-us – Art & Theology (artandtheology.org)
The text commentary in this piece is based on content from ‘The Story of Nano Nagle – A Life Lived on the Razor’s Edge, Anne Lyons, pbvm’ – see Life lived on the ‘Razor’s Edge’ – Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie)