When Anthony proposed, he chose to do so on the very first day of the new liturgical year. As we walked around the Shrine of St. Therese that day, he reminded me of the fact that it was the beginning of the new liturgical year. I quizzed him on which Gospel account we’d be focusing on for the year (Matthew) and the difference between Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospel as compared to John’s gospel. What can I say, I’m a nerd for theological things. What I didn’t realize in all of this quizzing, was how fortuitous it was that the first weeks of our engagement would be in the season of Advent.
Advent is a season of preparation. The world often likes to forget that. Practically as soon as Halloween is over you’ll find shelves lined with Christmas decorations and gift ideas. If we aren’t careful, we get sucked into the chaos of it all too. We want to skip over advent and just get to Christmas. We want the Christmas tree up, the egg nog to flow freely, and the gifts to be given and received with joy. In our world of “I want it now” we don’t want to wait for Christmas, and we are prone to see advent as another one of those times the Church is simply out of touch with the times. But is she, really? There is so much wisdom in waiting and in preparing our hearts for Christmas. Preparing our hearts isn’t about buying all of the gifts or finding the ugliest sweater to win the ugly sweater contest. Preparing our hearts is about returning to a right relationship with God, it is about making straight our paths and waiting with eager expectation to receive Him, to make room for Him in the inn of our hearts. We eagerly await the coming of Christ at Christmas, but we don’t wish away advent. If we wish away and waste the season of preparation, we risk not being truly prepared or joyful at His coming.
The same is true of engagements.
Engagement is a season of preparation. The world likes to forget that and tells us to get bogged down with all of the super easy DIY projects you can do for your wedding day. Practically as soon as the ring is on your finger people start asking when the big day is and how soon you’ll have kids. The world says that the wedding is about how “Pinterest worthy” it is, from the second guests arrive until they leave exhausted from a day of good times. The world says the details are what matter. The world says we should just skip over engagement and wish it all away for our wedding day, that day which promises to be the best and most important day of our entire lives. The world says that the fact that the Church requires a set amount of time for marriage prep is yet another reason she is outdated. But is she, really? She (the Church) shows so much wisdom in her requirements for marriage prep. She recognizes the beauty and the joy of the coming Sacrament (marriage), and wants us to prepare our hearts for that Sacrament. More than the details of the wedding day itself, the Church wants brides and grooms to be to prepare themselves for marriage, not just the wedding day. Preparing our hearts for marriage is about equipping us with tools for communication and a lasting, fruitful, holy marriage. We eagerly await marriage, but we don’t wish away engagement. If we wish away or waste the season of engagement, we risk not being truly prepared or joyful for our marriage.
Waiting is hard. I get it. No wonder there are Christmas countdowns galore and more “Wedding Countdown” apps than I care to count. We don’t like waiting. We, much like our first parents, Adam and Eve, want what we want and we want it now. But the Church, in her infinite wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches us and shows us the beauty of fruitful preparation. It is in waiting and preparing that we find even more joy in the coming gifts, whether at Christmas or on our wedding day.