By Thomas Asama
Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa
As the sun breaks into the world shedding light across the tremulous terrain, a young maiden opens her eyes. The manifested chill creeping through her is only superseded by the dense ache of many days travel. Gingerly she rights herself still awkward and unaccustomed to the load she bears. The son had woken her that morning with his sudden movements, movements which had become less frequent in the past weeks doubtlessly cramped by an effulgence of life.
The stream of events we know as life disappears in a blur. Holidays too become just another burst of color in this cacophony, Advent a streak of purple. After all, the stories of Advent and Christmas are nothing when compared to the actuality of “Real Life.” Look at the good we do with our lives, the educational milestones and successful business ventures, surely these are the glory The Good Father desires. However, these two mentalities erect themselves on weary soil. Is our morning coffee and dense schedule more real than a young pregnant mother, her loyal husband, and miraculous son? And yes, The Father rejoices in our good, yet who is defining our understanding of glory? After all, following the commentary of St. Alphonsus, God’s taking on of a lesser nature, evokes more of a sense of humiliation rather than glory in the eyes of man.
These thoughts generate two questions; “Whose reality am I serving?” and “Who is defining my idea of glory?” As a college student, the enemy heralds the need for academic success to procure financial security and accomplishment of dreams. In defining the glories we seek, he then convinces us that the real world, the one deserving of our lives, is the world of academia. The real present becomes composition books dense with drawings of embryology and the real future becomes deadlines and exams. Yet what if, like Mary, our real life was not Caesar and the journey to Bethlehem, but the feeding and nurturing of the life of Christ with in us? This call to the divine reality is not a call to negligence of education or work. Mary and Joseph were diligent in obedience to Caesar and accordingly scrambled to the manger seemingly unready for the birth of Christ. Yet, can anyone say they were unprepared? The magnitude of the nativity was not lost to Mary, the perfect mother.
No newborn can be alien to its mother for even at the first breaths, 9 months have been shared in intimate communion. In proper order, the mother is then ready to not only receive the innocence in her arms but to carry it out into the world as her own beloved. In the waiting of Advent, we wait not for the assembly of decorations but rather we wait on a child with all the excitement of new life. Like Mary we have an opportunity to welcome the savior into our hearts long before Christmas. In Iowa City, the Newman Center hosts events to multimodally facilitate this internalization: scriptural study through Gospel Studies and Men’s and Women’s FOCUS bible studies, Eucharistic encounter through Wednesday Night Adoration and Thursday Night Mass, and Las Posadas, a traditional Hispanic celebration. In the blessing of orchestrating and assisting with these events as the Faith Formation Weekly Events Fellow, I have seen students present their fiat to the Lord choosing to make real the life of faith. The lives of these students proclaim, “We are at the University of Iowa for the glorification of God, and while we glorify him, may we learn.”
May we all, this Advent Season, seek out true glory in centering our lives in the divine reality. May this reordering instill in our hearts a developing relationship with Christ so that Christmas may bring him forth as our beloved, the light to the nations.