The Catholic author, Caryll Houselander, suggests to us
that this season of Advent can be thought of as what she calls "the season
of the seed." You will recall, that our Lord often used the metaphor of
"the seed" to explain the kingdom of heaven to His disciples:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed"; "the kingdom of
heaven is like a landowner who sowed good seed in his field"; "unless
the seed fall on the earth and die, it shall not raise up fruit." Our Lord
often referred to "the seed" to show his followers God's plan, both in
nature and in the spiritual life. Here in south Florida we are fortunate to have
a planting and growing season that coincides roughly with the seasons of Advent
and Christmas -- of planting and harvesting before the heat of late spring
becomes too oppressive. So we ought to take advantage of this natural
surrounding, and let it help us to understand the growth of the spiritual life.
During Advent our thoughts naturally turn toward the
Blessed Virgin Mary, a young Jewish woman who learned from the Angel Gabriel
that she was to become the mother of the Savior promised to her race many
thousands of years ago -- the God who wished to be with His people. Somehow, the
"seed" of the Holy Ghost would sprout and grow within her; that from
her womb would come the Child awaited for centuries by all Israel. From the
lowly and humble Virgin would come the Son of God.
But, Son of God though He was, He was within Mary, like a
seed; humble, silent, and growing. (An image of what we should be during
Advent.) He did nothing for Himself, but was utterly dependent upon His Virgin
Mother -- who had nothing to give Him but herself. His body was formed from
hers; she ate for Him, she breathed for Him. Daily she worked with her hands,
cooking, cleaning, sewing, all the while forming within herself the hands of He
who would be crucified. With every beat of her heart, there was formed slowly
the Sacred Heart, capable of loving all humanity. The Sacred humanity of Christ,
united forever with His august divinity, came from Mary.
It is not much different today. God still wishes to be
with His people. He is still humble, and silent, and growing. In the Blessed
Sacrament He gives Himself over to the care of His priests, the "other
sons" of His Blessed Mother. When His priests whisper the words of
consecration at Holy Mass, He humbly leaves the heights of heaven to come and
rest on our altars. Silently He waits in the tabernacles of the world for the
souls He loves to come and visit Him. He grows, so to speak, one soul at a time,
as His priests bring Him to His people: to the soul who kneels at the communion
rail, to the soul who suffers in the hospital, to the soul who repents in
prison, even to those souls about to go into battle. Still as helpless as He was
in the womb of the Virgin, He is carried in a pyx or on a little metal plate;
His feet are the feet of His priest, His hands are the hands of His priest.
Now, obviously, there was, throughout all time only one
Blessed Virgin Mary. And comparatively few will become priests. Yet Christ is
similarly humble, and silent, and growing in each and every one of us; woman or
man, layman or priest. The "seed" of the Holy Ghost was planted in
each of us at Baptism, the ground of our soul is cultivated in Confession,
watered and made fertile in Holy Communion. Properly taken care of, He grows
within us, making us into Him.
That is, of course, the secret of the spiritual life. No
amount of effort on our part will make us perfect; the only way to reach the
perfection God demands of us is by allowing Him to become perfect within us. The
person who thinks that he can make himself perfect -- the "spiritual
athlete," so to speak -- is wrong. You can fast, you can abstain, you can
give to the poor, you can pray, you can read the Scriptures -- but all of these
things are relatively useless until you realize that you are doing them not for
yourself, but for Christ within you.
And that makes it so much easier, and so much more
worthwhile. It is easier to live the Christian life if we are living it for
Christ within us, rather than for ourselves. Easier to avoid looking at what we
should not, if we realize that ours are the eyes of Christ.... easier to avoid
touching what we should not if we realize that ours are the hands of Christ....
easier to avoid talking about what we should not if we realize that ours are the
lips of Christ -- and certainly easier to say, and see, and touch, and do the
things that we should do, if we do them for Christ within us rather than for
And, of course, all the more worthwhile, for when God the
Father looks down on us and sees us carrying Christ within us, He sees not the
sinner but His beloved Son ... humble, and silent, and growing.
So, this time of Advent may well be seen as "the
season of the seed" -- a time of cultivation of the "seed" of the
Holy Ghost planted within us by means of Confession and frequent Mass and
Communion. A time of simply letting Christ grow within us; being with Him
"humble, and silent, and growing."