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Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Pastoral Theology, University of Navarra, Spain

Advent: door of hope

Mon, 29 Nov 2010 09:26:02 +0000 Published in

A man had lost the "report of the heart". That man "had lost the whole chain of feelings and thoughts that he had treasured in the meeting with human pain". Why did this happen and what were the consequences? "Such a disappearance of the report of love had been offered to him as a release from the burden of the past. But it soon became clear that, with it, man had changed: the meeting with pain no longer awakened in him memories of goodness. With the loss of the report had also disappeared the source of goodness within him. He had become cold and emanated coldness all around him."

This is a Christmas story by Charles Dickens, summarized by Joseph Ratzinger in one of his meditations from the 1980s (published at Spanish with the degree scroll "The Radiance of God in Our Time", Herder 2008).

Interestingly, what is here called "report of the heart" or "report of love" arises from encounters with pain. This illuminates a profound truth: we normally perceive that any person is worthy of help in his or her need, because we all belong to one human family. Christians know that we are the image of God and are called to be children of God. The awareness of this need arouses in us the desire to do good. And all this remains in the report as a treasure, which allows us to continue believing in the good and the capacity to do good, and to continue doing it, loving. We know from experience that we need others and that by helping them we make ourselves better and contribute to the progress of the world. That is why those who have not had the experience of goodness, or have lost the report of goodness, it is difficult for them to have hope.

The replicants in the movie Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) - human-looking robots - had been implanted with artificial memories and feelings; but they had come to suspect it, and, knowing their expiration date, they rebelled against their "creator" and against the established authority, because they wanted to go on living.

As Christians, it is the Holy Spirit that unites us and vivifies us in the family of God. He moves us forward through faith, hope and love. One of the main ways in which he does this is through the liturgy of the Church, as happens in Advent.

"Advent," said Joseph Ratzinger in his meditation, "wants to awaken in us the memory that is proper and deepest in our hearts: the memory of the God who became a child. This memory heals, this memory is hope". Advent, the gateway to the liturgical year, introduces us to this "history of the most precious memories" (the history of our salvation). We financial aid to "awaken the report of the heart and thus learn to see the star of hope".

In Advent we can make these great memories of humanity, kept by the Christian tradition, become part of our personal memories and nourish them. And Cardinal Ratzinger observed: "Surely each one of us can tell his own story of what the festive memories of Christmas, Easter or other celebrations mean for his life".

Today, in many Christians, this "report of the heart" that is the liturgical year seems to be threatened by lack of experience and knowledge. This is why it is important to revive Advent. Hand in hand with the Holy Spirit and Mary, especially in these weeks leading up to Christmas, it is necessary to dust off the memories of the good and enrich them by living the liturgy with intensity and serving others, in order to keep the door of hope open.