I find myself getting enthusiastic not about Thanksgiving or Christmas–and certainly not the steady stream of stupid ‘Christmas music’ they play on the radio. Instead I’m anticipating Advent. I’m looking forward to beginning again and living again the great cycle of redemption.
I am also beginning to realize not only how weary I am of the secularization of holidays in the United States, but the blatant and crass commercialism of it all. It’s like the devil has planned a deliberate alternative to the liturgical year. We have Advent and Christmas and Epiphany and Ordinary Time and the blessed season of Lent and Easter and Ascension and Pentecost and all these great religious seasons.
Instead El Diablo offers us a ‘shopping opportunity’ every month of the year. Halloween and Thanksgiving followed by Christmas and New Years followed by Valentine’s Day and St Patrick’s Day and Easter and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Fourth of July and Off to the Beach and Back to School and Labor Day and the Halloween again. It is like the whole American society troops off to celebrate this crass, artificial holiday routine.
I’m trying more and more to forget about all that. I don’t want to be a party pooper. Far from it. But instead I want to live the mysteries. I want to celebrate Advent with anticipatory excitement and a penitential mood. I want to welcome the seasons of the year in harmony with the rhythms of redemption, and I also want to do all this without a pious sense of indignation at the secular, commercialism. I don’t want to march off in a huff to ‘be religious instead’.
It needs to be simple and secret and safe. It’s almost as if I want to do all this on my own and with my family and parish and the whole glittery Wal-Mart, Shopping Mall, Hallmark Cards, Television Specials materialistic America can go to hell. Now that sounds harsh, but I don’t use the words lightly. It does seem to me more and more to have come from hell as a kind of fiendish imitation of what we should really be doing–
–and if it came from hell, I’m very happy for it to go back where it came from.