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On Advent

As many of you know, I’m an advocate for liturgical living. As the precursor to Christmas, Advent is meant for us to reflect on what it means to prepare for the arrival of our Lord in a season that has become so thoroughly possessed by the spirit of avarice and consumption.


I began this week with Sensus Fidelium’s series on Advent reflections: I found this one in particular, on the spiritual significance of silence, salient. This is also the reality that Cardinal Sarah addresses in his book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. The book is a long interview with French journalist Nicolas Diat, in which Sarah rebukes the “worldly powers that seek to shape modern man” by “systemically do[ing] away with silence.” To Sarah, noise is a “drug on which [man] has become dependent… Agitation becomes a tranquilizer, a sedative, a morphine pump, a sort of reverie, an incoherent dream-world.” Ultimately, the book is about each person’s search for God—a search that we often forget is about an interior state: silence, as the manifestation of God’s presence, where we can envision and respond to His love.

Silence has interior and exterior components; one can often tell us about the other. This season, I’ve been considering a couple of different ways to make a home conducive to silence and deep reflection. One of my favorite mommy bloggers, Calli Brancheforte of But First, Coffee describes clutter as the items that “scream out to us,” keeping an ongoing and neverending to-do list at the forefront of our minds. Decluttering and cleaning our physical space is a way of clearing the road for interior peace: prayer and meditation. Against the true spirit of the season, this is a time of year when so many people are swept up in clutter. Another one of my favorite mommy bloggers, Megan Wells, offered some Advent-specific advice for reducing the noise: “1) come Dec 5th I’m not touching any more work until after the new year… 2) Christmas shopping is done before Advent starts… 3) put the Christmas parades, events, & dinner parties in the calendar in advance so we know what we can & can’t make…”

I wish I’d thought of this before it started, but it’s good advice I’m going to try to incorporate as soon as possible to free myself for peace over the next few weeks. It’s about making intimacy with Christ a possibility and a priority. A humbling reminder.

Roder Scruton’s critique of the tyranny of pop music is similar to Sarah’s, and even more beautifully written: 

“In almost every public place today the ears are assailed by the sound of pop music. In shopping malls, public houses, restaurants, hotels, and elevators the ambient sound is not human conversation but the music disgorged into the air by speakers — usually invisible and inaccessible speakers that cannot be punished for their impertinence. For the most part, however, the prevailing music is of an astounding banality — it is there in order not to be really there. It is a background to the business of consuming things, a surrounding nothingness on which we scribble the graffiti of our desires. The worst forms of this music… are produced without the intervention of musicians, being put together on a computer from a repertoire of standard effects. The background sounds of modern life are therefore less and less human…Whole areas of civic space in our society are now policed by this sound, which drives anybody with the slightest feeling for music to distraction, and ensures that for many of us a visit to the pub or a meal in a restaurant has lost its residual meaning. These are no longer social events, but experiments in endurance, as you shout at each other over the deadly noise.”

My husband recently discovered some composers that, unlike the ubiquitous noise in question, are actually conducive to inner peace and reflection. Clamavi De Profundis is a group of three men with astonishing range who sing a variety of Gregorian chants, as well as traditional folk songs, and whose Christmas music is better than anything I’ve heard since Josh Groban released Noël in 2007.