• Devin O'Donnell

Advent: Hoping Against Hope

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Yesterday marked the beginning of the season of Advent, the new year of the Church calendar, that season of dark that precedes the dawn, that season of waiting on the LORD, that season of following the star to Christ. It is helpful to remember just how dark the world really was before the Word became flesh (though this may be hard to understand for us moderns who still are still living on the borrowed capital of a Christian civilization). But Advent is a season to slow down and contemplate the supernal darkness of the ancient world in contrast with the Light of the Light. Consider, for instance, the contrast of light and dark in Del Sarto's "Annunciation" (below). Advent should remind us of the primordial darkness before the light of Christ, through Mary, broke open the antique night of a fallen world.

For today, let us also contemplate the task of waiting. In a world of instant gratification, Advent is a tonic. The practice of waiting is a spiritual discipline. It cultivates in us the fruit of the spirit of patience, which in Latin means at root "to suffer." Advent obliges us to practice patience in the opportunity of waiting for Christmas, the first coming of Jesus; it also obliges us us to wait properly for the second coming of Christ. In this sense it will be instructive to remember a time when people could not wait properly. Recall the story of Moses and the golden calf at Sinai. The people of Israel grew tired of waiting for Moses to come down the mountain, so they lost faith (and Romans 1 is fulfilled). How many people, including Christians, do this today? They get tired of waiting for Christ to come back down the mountain as He promised, and so they make for themselves an idol. Let us therefore not grow tired of waiting. Taking a thing before its time is a biblical definition of sin. Christians are called to "watch" and "wait" for the fulfillment of things. "Wait," the psalmist enjoins, "Wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:14).

Waiting on the Lord cannot be done in our own strength. One must activate the theological virtue of "hope" (mentioned throughout Scripture, most notably in Romans 4:18, describing the virtue in action through Abraham's life). Hope is the theme of the first candle in the traditional advent wreath. The candle reminds us of the prophets of the Old Testament, who, having "faith" in the promises of God, exercised "hope" for a light to come into the darkness, the Messiah to save us from the sin in the world (see Isaiah 9:2, 6-7). Hope is different than faith. St. Thomas tell us, in short, " faith is of things unseen, and hope, of things not possessed" (Summa, Question 62). So it is that "the will is directed to this end, both as to that end as something attainable—and this pertains to hope." The will's attainment of the promise can happen each year when the great day breaks upon us, and we celebrate with Christmas gifts and feasts. That is not all. We hope not only to attain the blessings of the first coming of Christ but also of His second, where he shall come with great glory to judge the quick and the dead.

Traditio Agenda for Monday:

  1. Prayer & Catechism

  2. Note Oral Exam on TWHF changed to after the break (11/30)

  3. Narrative Twist: Four Slants & Four Modes (12/1)

  4. Read "Introduction to Greek Drama" by Peter Leithart

  5. Annotate and be ready for a quiz tomorrow

  6. Work on POL memorization & recitation

  7. Work on Narrative Twist writing assignment

  8. Begin reading Oedipus Rex

Traditio Agenda for Tuesday:

  1. Prayer & Catechism

  2. Quiz on the "Introduction to Greek Drama" by Peter Leithart

  3. Do POL Recitation 2

  4. Work on Narrative Twist writing assignment

  5. Continue reading Oedipus Rex


  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  2. Till We Have Faces Study Guide – Oral Exam due 11/30

  3. Narrative Twist Written Assignment – due 12/1

  4. Memorize Poetry Out Loud (POL) selections

  5. 12 line Imitation due Wednesday (12/8)


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