Advent must be penitential

If for no other reason, then consider this:  for more of us than you think, the difference between joy–real joy, what Lewis calls “the desire to continue” and what moved Henry van Dyke to call Christ “Wellspring of the joy of living, / Ocean’s depth of happy rest”–and an oppressive, cloying, constantly faked happy-clappy-ness can only be felt in the self-exhaustion of penance.  Taxed to “rejoice” in unbroken happiness, we stumble near despair.  This world is simply not good enough to make us that happy, and to constantly pretend that God is immanently or imminently translating us into the Eschaton means to constantly cycle between delusion and disillusionment. Those who God has graced with the privilege or the ability to routinely experience happiness, we cheer on with bewildered eyes–but more often we notice the false consciousness, the doubtful props, the denials and evasions, by which many adequate their experience to their emotional needs.  Give us, though, a season for exhausting ourselves–for watching our own separation from facile happy-making grow, for becoming hungry for the simple graces and mundane joys, for insisting that these come with Jesus, with the sacraments and the blessing of the Church, or not at all–and we despair of our manufactured wish-fulfillment fantasies, and hope in Him; we are worn out with struggle, and find rest; famished, we feast.