“Wash, rinse, repeat.” Ah! Those are the familiar instructions on the shampoo bottle. We repeat many procedures and words for numerous reasons. We repeat to stress a point we are trying to make. We repeat to help us learn or memorize. We repeat because someone is hard of hearing or resistant to the issue at hand. We repeat because we like to hear what is repeated, perhaps song lyrics or melody, or a prayer psalm.
At times, when something is repeated, we may not pay attention: “Oh, I have heard that so many times before! I know all about that!"
Have you ever stopped to think that there are different ways to approach, explore, and elaborate on the matter at hand? A repetitive background could offer a comfortable or familiar jump-off point for creativity. Contemplative prayer is one example.
In the passage from the Gospel of Mark that we heard at Mass yesterday (13:33-37), we are told to be watchful and stay alert because we don’t know when the Master will come. As we begin our new liturgical year with the season of Advent, we know again we must be careful how we observe our environment which can be full of temptations. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:3-9) gives us hope that we won’t lack spiritual gifts to help us. So we will say it again, “Watch! stay alert!”
At time of year, we read and hear repeated ads for all kinds of Christmas gifts and decorations. Materialism at its finest! How about repeating some beautiful Bible verses? Instead of “Black Friday” sales that repeat beyond Black Friday, consider reading and rejoicing with Isaiah 40:3-5:
A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway
for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all mankind shall see it together;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Psalms 85, 96 and 98 also give us hope and peace when we pray with them during Advent. We are hopeful, and hope is a good thing to repeat and pass on to others. When we read these familiar lines, we can thoughtfully, slowly emphasize one line and then another as we meditate. We can make the lines personal to ourselves and to our current situations. We can invite our loving, forgiving, generous Lord into the words and phrases and ask him for inspiration and fresh understanding.
Happy Advent! Again — Happy Advent!