The Valleys and Mountains of Advent

I cannot help but follow up on yesterday’s post since there is nothing better than writing about Advent. Advent is the preparation for the battle, but in a “young hero learns from wise old wizard way,” not the “Black Hawk down!” chaos of Christ’s Passion. Advent is the gentlest season in the way it teaches us. We don’t even try to learn, and yet it teaches. We wake up Christmas morning to find God in a manger, and somehow it doesn’t surprise us as much as it should since we’ve been quietly prepared for it the whole time.

One thing I have learned this Advent is how it’s really really all about love. I don’t only mean this in a sentimental way; I mean that everything can be done for either pride or love. One or the other. There is very little room for middle ground.

For example, I have wanted to be a movie director since I was in 5th grade. As I approach my impending freefall into a “career” in Hollywood – read: as I prepare to be homeless – I have been growing in anxiety about it, so much so that I have been crippled in my attempts to make movies. I am so concerned about succeeding and so obsessed with the fear of failure that I cannot start the film making process. I am so obsessed with failure that I am afraid to fail even an ameature film project. What if it is not perfect?  What if I am not actually the film genius I pretend I am? What if this means I don’t have what it takes? What if I cannot improve? What if I am the next Ed Wood, or worse, Michael Bay?

This attitude is, of course, pride, and it has taken me way too long to realize it. God is not calling me to be a famous movie director. If I do become famous, it is a small cross he has asked me to carry, not a reward for being a bad ass. My calling is to make the best movies I can now – the emphasis with God is the present moment – simply because I love to make movies. Each film project is its own marriage in a sense, and I am called with each one to complete self-giving. I cannot wimp out just because Lady Cinema poses such a challenge. The more challenged the love, the more beautiful that love is. I’ve been obsessed with myself and my own need to be perfect so long that I’ve forgotten it’s not about me. It is about the Other. It is about film, which prepares me to love my future wife. It is about my future wife, who will hopefully bring me to God as much as I intend to bring her to Him. It is about God, the Ultimate Other, the Hidden Beauty, the Radical Individual.

Speaking of Advent, Love, Beauty, God, and overcoming pride, I have something to share. I recently wrote a paper for my aesthetics class about the nature of Beauty. Before this Advent I would have shared this paper out of pride, because *after all*, I am *such* a badass writer. Obviously. Now, albeit still tainted by pride, I hope I am sharing this paper because I love it. I wrote it by loving it, and now it has been birthed and I love it more. I love sharing the things I love. I love this paper. Therefore, take it or leave it, I will share this paper with you.

THESIS – The Philosophy of Mystical Beauty

(Hopefully I will present this paper at the upcoming Edith Stein conference at Notre Dame. Fingers crossed.)

Even though I say this paper is about Beauty, it is just as much about Advent and Jesus. Let me quote the last few sentences to illustrate what I mean:

Maybe so many modern artists, from Dalí to O’Keeffe, retreated to the desert because they knew that Beauty would remain there always, a voice crying in the wilderness like Isaiah: that the valleys shall be raised up and mountains made low, the chaos shall be filled and the eternal made known.

Before I have contrasted Advent with the “desert” of Lent, but perhaps the two liturgical seasons are really the same desert. If Lent is the scorching day, Advent is cool night. After all, John the Baptist’s preaching in the desert is read in Advent, not Lent.

In the desert, mountains and valleys are manifest as changing dunes, which shift and morph at the whim of the wind. This is perhaps the most stunning beauty of the desert: it’s quiet way of changing entirely and surprising us. In this way, it is the easiest place to find Christ. It was no accident that my patron saint Antony of Egypt retreated to the desert. Just as the desert wind has its way with the dunes, in Advent (and in the lives of the desert fathers) the Holy Spirit forms our souls at whim. We don’t really have to to anything but be sand, i.e. all we have to do is realize the pretty obvious fact that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

In other words, if we acknowledge that God is God and we are not, then God acts very godly in our lives and makes us more godly with Him. For the price of admitting that we need Him, for the price of admitting that we want Him, we get exactly what we ask for: Him. Nothing could be easier, and yet we resist doing this so much. Why?

So, this Advent is a chance to finally surrender. There is no reason not to. God is giving, why not receive? So. Easy. Heaven is right around the corner, whining in a hay trough. All we have to do is pay Him a visit.

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