One of the best accidental decisions I ever made was to take Latin in high school. I say “accidental” because it was mostly a contrarian instinct to choose Latin over something practical like Spanish. While I had no intention of becoming a Roman Catholic priest or Latin teacher, what the Latin language did was to help me better understand English. While our grammar is Germanic based, our vocabulary is distinctly Latin or Romance based. And from Latin, the word Advent comes from the verb advenio.
In this Season of Advent, we focus on circular nature of Advent. We recall Christ’s first appearance and we are reminded that He will come again in the Second Coming. This Season seems to be one of watchful expectation as we await the coming of the Christ Child. But this is not the full extent of what Advent means. And that’s why I appreciate my Latin studies.
For me the Latin word advenio better defines what this way of Advent means. Advenio is one of Latin’s all-purpose verbs that have many, many definitions. In addition to meaning to come, advenio also means: to arise (or get up); to develop (or ripen); and to reach (or risk). The same root word that gives us Advent also gives us adventure… and venture as in venture capital. Both of which better relay the active risk-taking nature of the word rather than just the passive “here I am” Second Coming. Using Latin, Advent doesn’t just mean awaiting His coming… but actually seeking him out.
In this week’s Gospel, John the Baptist shows us the way. In this first Advent, John wasn’t waiting for Jesus to come. John started his ministry to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming.
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
So how do we prepare the way for the Jesus’ and the Second Coming? Again, using the Latin advenio, we can arise, develop and we can risk.
To arise or wake up means to stir ourselves into actively seeking Jesus among us. Jesus is out here in the world and he is disguised as everyone. It’s time to get up and find Him.
To develop, or mature or progress means to learn and better hone our abilities in seeking and serving Jesus. We listen, we pray and we seek out our faith leaders to help us better see the Jesus in everyone, which is no easy task.
And finally, to reach or to risk means to find ways outside of our personal circle or comfort zone to touch Jesus. Finding and serving the Jesus in those who we love is easy (most of the time) but finding the and serving the Jesus in the stranger, the outcast, the marginalized, is more of a challenge.
As we celebrate Advent we are reminded that we, like John the Baptist, are tasked with preparing the way for Jesus. Let that great adventure begin.