Since my conversion, or reawakening in the faith, or “re-version” as it is sometimes termed for cradle Catholics, Advent has felt very Marian in nature. It could merely be that the Immaculate Conception is in the first half of the season, setting the tone. On the other hand, it could be that the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary seem to resonate more in Advent, or it could be something even more overtly spiritual.

There could certainly be something to the idea of Mary’s journey to childbirth and the reality of her pregnancy that I associate with Advent, but as a man, I really have no firsthand frame of reference for that experience, only what my wife has shared with me.

As a creative type and an artist, I feel I can relate to the sense of receiving an inspiration (inspire, in theological terms, means “to receive the Holy Spirit”), carrying the idea, forming it as days and weeks pass, and finally delivering the finished work as the fruit of long preparation.

Even as the days pass, sometimes bearing the unfinished project in mind becomes more and more taxing than actually completing and bringing forth the finished song. I’d like to think most artists can relate to the struggle to find a balance between the internal need to continue developing the idea/song/image/vision, and overcoming the impatience of the process.

When I have a great idea for a song that I really feel strongly about, in my mind I can experience glimpses of what I feel the finished song will be like, but have difficulty bringing into that vision the intermediate steps that will realize that glimpse. What steps need to be taken? What layers should be added? What kind of processing should be applied to optimize a given sound or instrument?

When it comes to recording music, there are tens of thousands of ways to accomplish the same sound, and it leads me to a kind of paralysis.

The same is true in the spiritual life; that sense of overwhelming possibility can stump us in a particular way, during these seasons of penitential preparation. When there are so many ways to ready ourselves for the coming of Christ, we can have difficulty knowing just where to begin. This is the more true as the depth and scope of the intended project grows.

If my interior life is too diffuse, scattered, and varied, clearing the space for the birth of the Lord in my heart becomes too daunting a task. Add in the imminent deadline that is steadily approaching amidst the many legitimate concerns and responsibilities of life — be that in terms of profession, parenting, home ownership, social connection, or health and fitness, to name a few.

It is here that my mind returns to my wife’s experience of pregnancy and her natural impulse of “nesting.”  The truth is that the idea or song can be so intimidating as an artist, but for the realization that the thing God wishes to birth in me is not my own. It is no more my responsibility to create the kind of Christian witness I want to live out, than it is my responsibility to make myself holy. I have spent my efforts in vain attempts to control the outcome, rather than my receptivity.

It is Christ that is coming to life within me. I don’t have to create or prepare the outcome. I have but to prepare the space for Christ to come, just as my wife and I did when we expected each of our children. It is cleaning up, removing the clutter of the interior, practicing focus, so that the various aspects of my life begin to order themselves around the reality of what the Holy Spirit is bringing to fruit in my heart.

May this Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing at the nearness of the Lord’s arrival, bring us the grace to prepare a worthy place in my life to live and love Jesus more fully.

David Dunst
Director of Music and Liturgy

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