| Written by Father Delp, a German convert and Jesuit priest, who was
imprisoned after the failed July 1944 attempt against Hitler and was hanged
by the SS in a "settling of accounts" that took place days before Hitler
killed himself in Berlin.
Why I am an Advent person
"The Shaking Reality of Advent"
Alfred Delp, SJ, d. Feb 2, 1945
There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be
genuinely shaken up. Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; and
where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation, we need
to know this too and endure it.
We may ask why God has sent us into this time, why he has sent this
whirlwind over the earth, why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears
hopeless and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight. The
answer to this question is perhaps that we were living on earth in an
utterly false and counterfelt security. And now God strikes the earth 'til
it resounds, now he shakes and shatters; not to pound us with fear, but to
teach us one thing-the spirit's innermost moving and being moved.
Many of the things that are happening today would never have
happened if we had been living in that movement and disquiet of heart which
results when we are faced with God, the Lord, and when we look clearly at
things as they really are. If we had done this, God would have withheld his
hand from many things that have stirred up and shaken and crushed our lives.
We would have seen and judged the limits of our own competence.
But we have stood on this earth in false pathos, in false security;
in our spiritual insanity we really believed we could, with the power of our
own hand and arm, bring the stars down from heaven and kindle flames of
eternity in the world. We believed that with our own forces we could avert
the dangers and banish night, switch off and halt the internal quaking of
the universe. We believed we could harness everything and fit it into a
final order that would stand.
Here is the message of Advent: faced with him who is the Last, the
world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities
will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things.
Only then will we be able to guard our life from the frights and terrors
into which God the Lord has let the world sink to teach us, so that we may
awaken from sleep, as Paul says, and see that it is time to repent, time to
change things. It is time to say, "All right, it was night; but let that be
over and let us be ready for the day." We must do this with a decision that
comes out of these very horrors we have experienced, and all that is
connected with them; and because of this our decision will be unshakable
even in uncertainty.
If we want to transform life again, if Advent is truly to come
again-the Advent of home and of hearts, the Advent of the people and the
nations, a coming of the Lord in all this-the great Advent question for us
is whether we come out of these convulsion with this determination: yes,
arise! It is time to awaken from sleep. It is time for a waking up to begin
somewhere. It is time to put things back where God the Lord put them. It is
time for each of us to go to work, with the same unshakable sureness that
the Lord will come, to set our life in God's order wherever we can. Where
God's word is heard, he will not cheat our life of the message; where our
life rebels before our own eyes he will reprimand it.
The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate
calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those
who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are
hounded from the earth.
The Advent message comes out of an encounter of man with the
absolute, the final, the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes-so that
in the end the world shall be shaken. The fact that then the Son of man
shall come is more than a historic prophecy; it is also a decree, that God's
coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. If we are
inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken, if we
become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God will himself
intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this
agitation and be stirred inwardly. Then the great question to us is whether
we are still capable of being truly shocked or whether it is to remain so
that we see thousands of things and know that they should not be and must
not be, and that we get hardened to them. How many things have we become
used to in the course of the years, of the weeks and months, so that we
stand unshocked, unstirred, inwardly unmoved.
Advent is time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a
realization of ourselves. The necessary condition for the fulfillment of
Advent is the renunciation of the presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams
in which and by means of which we always build ourselves imaginary worlds.
In this way we force reality to take us to itself by force-by force, in much
pain and suffering.
The shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent. But
at the same time there is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed
with God's promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time.
These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts. Being shattered, being
awakened-only with these is life made capable of Advent. In the bitterness
of awakening, in the helplessness of "coming to," in the wretchedness of
realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and
earth in the times reach us. These golden threads give the world a taste of
the abundance it can have.
We must not shy away from Advent thoughts of this kind. We must let
our inner eye see and let our hearts range far. We will encounter the
earnestness of Advent and the blessing of Advent in a different way. We will
see characters, completed and whole personalities, that belong to these days
and to all days-characters in whom the Advent message and the Advent
blessing simply exist and live, calling out to us and touching us to cheer
and shake us, to console and to uplift us.
I am referring to characters that live in these days and all days.
The types I mean are these three: the Angel of Annunciation, the Blessed
Woman, and the Crier in the Wilderness.
[This excerpt, and the remainder of the essay, appear as the
December 5 reading in "Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and
Christmas", © 2001, The Plough Publishing, Farmington, PA. Father Delp wrote
this in a Nazi prison, two months before he was hanged.]