There’s something about Advent and Christmas that stirs my heart. As my semester as a grad student winds down, I anticipate the time to relax into the season. Typically, my interior is not filled with holiday anxiety, but with consolation. Each year Advent stirs up the memory of past Advents—those graces of hopeful anticipation, family time, and even the comfort of purple and pink candles lit on a dark winter evening. St. Ignatius says we ought to remember times of consolation, especially in times of desolation.
After a delightfully fruitful eight-day retreat last year, my director reminded me that the consoling graces I received on that retreat are mine. I can always go back to them. I must always be reminded of them.
This year, after the tragic death of a family friend, I find it hard to fully settle into my normal Advent consolation. Thankfully, those warm memories of Advents past are still there. Those graces are mine to return to. There is never a good time for sorrow to enter our lives, but I feel Ignatius tapping me on my shoulder, reminding me of the memories of consolation, where I felt the grace of God resting upon me. Advent is a time of hopefulness—not just for the birth of Christ, but for the time we will see Christ again, face-to-face.
When I practice re-journeying into those memories of consolation, I find that the ice of desolation slowly melts away, and I rediscover the warmth of a reassuring God who promises to meet us face-to-face on Christmas and at the end of our days. It’s a promise that encapsulates and gives life to the Christian message, one we can rely on during Advent and at every other time of the year.