Do you remember when you were a teenager and you first discovered the joy and freedom of going out with your friends? Oddly, the experience I recall most about going out with my friends was the moment I returned home. Whether I was being dropped off or driving, I remember the first thing I always saw when turning into the driveway: the living room light was on and my mother was sitting in her chair, either reading or watching television. She was waiting. I’m sure parents can relate. When your child reaches the age of “going out,” you arrive at the age of “waiting” for them to return home.
This type of waiting, however, is not a mindless waiting; it’s a waiting filled with a presence of the one for whom you wait. I know that as my mother sat waiting, she was thinking about me, praying for me. I was present in her mind and heart.
A waiting filled with the presence of the one for whom you wait. This is the type of waiting we are invited to enter into during this Advent season. Waiting in joyful expectation for the Lord’s return in glory means that our minds and hearts ought to be more attuned to his loving presence in our daily lives. This season of waiting ought to be a waiting filled with a presence, the presence of God. Advent, then, is an invitation to practice living in the Presence of God.
What does it mean to live in the presence of God? Simply put, it means that throughout our day, we become more consciously aware of the Lord’s loving presence within and around us. The saints teach us that learning to live in God’s presence is a sure path to holiness.
How can we live and continue to grow in God’s presence? I would like to propose three ways that can help you this Advent: daily mental prayer, daily acts of piety, and a daily examination of conscience.
Daily mental prayer
The awareness of God’s loving presence in our daily lives is only possible if we are deeply rooted in prayer, specifically meditative (or mental) prayer. As St. Josemaria Escriva—one of my favorite saints—wrote, “Are you living in the presence of God? For that is a consequence and a manifestation of your prayer” (Furrow, 447).
Prayer is a loving dialogue with the Lord. Prayer means opening our hearts to the Lord’s loving presence and entering into a deeper friendship with him. Daily mental prayer is simply a time to quiet ourselves, become more aware of the Lord’s loving presence, speak to him from our hearts, and then listen to him speak to us. It requires silence.
Mental prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is ideal, but if you’re not able to do that, a quiet place in your home will suffice. Start out with five minutes, then build to ten, and then to fifteen, and so on. This type of prayer will change your life, and you will become more and more aware of the Lord’s presence in your daily life.
Daily acts of piety
What does this mean? Acts of piety are short and simple spiritual exercises we do during the day to keep us in God’s presence. For example, you can make a habit of offering your day to God each morning; praying the Angelus at noon; making a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament on your way home from work; praying the rosary each day; reading a good spiritual book for ten minutes. The key is to sprinkle acts of piety—always from your heart—throughout your day. These acts will keep you in the Lord’s presence.
Daily examination of conscience
This simply means that, at the end of each day, to pause for a few moments to ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we failed and where we did well. We then ask the Lord for his mercy and make a simple and specific resolution that we will live out the next day.
During Advent we wait with joyful expectation for the Lord’s return in glory. But let our waiting be permeated with the Lord’s loving presence. If we learn to live in his presence, we will experience the joy of this sacred season and we will radiate joy to others.