ROMAN-PAVAJEAU: Advent, a time for reconciliation in the family

December 10, 2019

We are in one of the most amazing seasons of the year: Advent! I can’t believe Christmas is almost here again. 

I have to be honest, I find parts of this holiday weary, and one of the most difficult parts that I have to deal with is the consumerism of it all. We, as a society, have turned a celebration of the arrival of the King of Kings into an opportunity for commerce. Not that giving and receiving gifts is a bad thing; it is just not the main reason for the season.

Advent is all about reconciliation, and it is the season before Christmas. I find it challenging to see Christmas trees already being set up in the streets, even at the main place where Christ was born, Bethlehem. I am convinced there is a better way to spend this preparatory season as a person, as a couple, as a family, and of course, as a society.

If Advent prompts us to reconcile, in what ways should we be preparing ourselves, more than just shopping and Christmas music?

This season is meant to focus our hearts and minds on the weight of God’s intervention in the world through Jesus Christ. It is the time of silence; silence in our hearts and minds. There are close to 182 million people addicted to the Internet and smartphones. We live in a world where it is difficult to be alone and to keep silence. We live in constant noise. We are suffering from 'net brain,' and this is causing high levels of stress and narcissism and very low capacity for attention and silence.

How can we make this possible? How can we keep this season of arrival, a silent season, to prepare the grotto of the manger for the light that once shone for the world?

In the journey of Advent we are constantly called to watch and pray to meet Him, the “Prince of Peace,” Jesus, therefore it must be a real and deep desire to meet Him. There must be an invocation and an especially commitment to peace.

In all families, there are moments of discord. Still, when hurtful words, acts and indifference are ignored, they can be aggravated and transformed into arrogance, hostility and contempt.

This can cause deep lacerations, usually dividing husband and wife and inducing them to seek understanding, support and consolation elsewhere, most of the time through excessive use of media, including the Internet and smartphones. When adults lose their heads — when the father and mother harm or ignore each other, the soul of their children suffers greatly, and those wounds leave a lifelong mark.

In a family, everything is interconnected. Husband and wife are one flesh sharing a great responsibility for safeguarding the marital bond by recognizing in solitude and silence the importance of their vocation, a vocation that is exemplified by the Home of Nazareth, where charity — attention to each other and mercy were living virtues.

Christ arrived only for one purpose, to reconcile us to God. He became a human being like you and me; He was born in a relationship between a man and a woman, and He entered our world to come close to our reality. Reconciliation in marriage requires that we go to one another intending to make things right. It requires active forgiveness and the pursuit of the other with a merciful heart. But to arrive at this, it is crucial to understand and to remove the noise around us. To remove the arrogance, violence, estrangement, consumerism and indifference that surrounds us.

Advent can transform our marriage if we walk through the narrow door of humility and consider with our spouse that

Advent is a silent season to:

• Reconcile with God;
• Truly reconcile with our spouse, letting go all grudges;
• Loving each other with generosity;
• Being more transparent, exposing gracefully and respectfully all our thoughts, feelings and fears, and allowing God to give His radical grace to our soul and mind. Transparency in marriage is a humbling tool;
• Understand that humility is to serve each other;
• Remind the value of submission to each other; and
• Connect with each other more than with the outside world.

I am convinced that this is a better way to spend Advent and Christmas as a couple and as a family. We can use some main virtues to connect with Advent at home intentionally seeking out our spouse and family members; talk about hope where God met us individually and as a family in the last year and what are our hopes are for the coming year.

Love each other in the way the other one most appreciates. Love can be touch, actions, kind words, friendly tone of voice, full attention and more time to interact with each other. Show the joy that springs from gratitude. Thank God for who He is, what He has done for our loved ones and us, and for what He will do for our family and us.

In a world of noise, we need peace. Peace doesn’t mean the absence of conflict or pain or grief, but the reassurance that God is there and we are anchored in His love. His love is to be alive in our spouse and children and other family members, and our interactions with all of them should be giving a great sense of peace and harmony.

To celebrate Advent together is to take to our hearts the virtues of love, peace and joy, and allow ourselves to be in silent, to find ways to place all of them in our daily interactions. In that way Christmas will be more meaningful for us in our home, in our work environment, allowing us to perceive the miracle of the season. 

Maritza C. Roman-Pavajeau is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Family Life Ministry, Marriage Enrichment and Parenting Education.