I know it seems a little early to think of shepherds and wise men. But not really! At Christmas, we marvel that the rich and the powerful missed who the poor and the wise recognized in the manger. Here is what we forget to think about today. Why were they able to recognize the helpless baby Jesus as the long-awaited one? Simply put… they were looking for him. They are Advent figures!
Advent as a season of seeking
The wise men and shepherds were seekers. Their lives were not filled up with themselves and their personal needs. They were looking for the long-awaited one. We see what we are prepared to see. Busted halo captures the spirit of expectancy in a new edition of a classic video Advent in Two Minutes. It shifts our focus from shopping to expecting, waiting, hoping, and praying
Not just looking but also seeing
Vincent was not prepared to see what he saw in the later years of his life. Vincent was a seeker. He did not always know what he was really seeking. Initially, he thought he was seeking comfort and security. But, in the words of Tomaž Mavrič, CM, Superior General:
“Saint Vincent de Paul had two experiences in his life, in his early priesthood that changed his life forever. It was Folleville and it was then, a few months after, Châtillon. Folleville the experience of spiritual poverty. Châtillon the experience of material poverty, of physical poverty. And this was the encounter that Vincent had in the village of Châtillon, in the parish of Châtillon, when he heard that there was a family in need, in need of help, because they were sick. They needed food. They needed medicine. And what to do? He answered we need to go. We need to visit them. We need to see what needs they have and then help them concretely.” Chatillon Today video
As a seeker, he began to understand the mystery of the Incarnation in real life. It became one of the pillars of his spirituality. For Vincent de Paul every encounter between himself and a person in need became a mutual encounter with Christ.
Over the centuries Vincentian spirituality has been lived and developed by other family “seekers” such as Louise de Marillac, Frederic Ozanam, Catherine Labouré, Rosalie Rendu, Jeanne Antide, Canon Trieste and many others. (You can read about them on our formation site. They were all seekers.
Today more than ever we need to find our God in unexpected places and unexpected people. And this is precisely what the season of Advent is about – preparing to recognize the presence of God in unexpected places.
A new generation of Advent seekers gathered in Rome recently at a Vincentian Family Symposium on Homelessness. Considered wise and practical men and women, international experts focused their attention on the homeless Jesus, the baby in the manger today. In the name of the entire Vincentian Family, they were not just looking. They were addressing issues of finding room in the inns of today. They came to Rome not only to see but to serve “with the strength of the arms and sweat of their brows”.
Each of these persons has had their own Chatillon and Folleville experiences.
The questions for us this Advent
- Can we get beyond our expectations of what Jesus will look like today?
- Will we look for Christ in the unexpected places?
- During this Advent can we find the Chatillon and Folleville events of our lives?
- Will we risk being changed this Advent journey?