The beginning of Advent moves me into the question that my friend, Fr. Jim Willig, used to ask: “If you knew that you had only one year left in your life, how would you live that?” The readings last week were like an alarm clock that told me that we “know not the day or the hour”.
It reminds me to live this life fully, intentionally, deliberately. It reminds me to practice paying attention, or as Paul reminds us: “It’s now the hour to wake from sleep” (Rom 13:11). When I start living like this could be my last day, I notice things that are common are charged with the Presence of God. In the face of cold and dark, I hunker down with wrapped blankets and enjoy the warmth, aware of God’s Presence wrapping me: the early nights of purple skies, the crisp stars in December night air, awakening to a possible snow fall.
Most of my life, I live in the normal denial of death. That’s good because I can get some things done that are needed. But when I’m aware that this day is an unrepeatable opportunity, I might do things more slowly, deliberately, awake.
Mary Oliver has a poem entitled, “When Death Comes”. The whole poem is worthwhile, and since she recently died this past year, even more poignant. I’ll leave us with the last few lines that I really like:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
This Advent I want to live “married to amazement.”
(“When Death Comes”, © 1992 by Mary Oliver, from New & Selected Poems: Vol 1.) Beacon Press, Boston)