Diary of a Former Pagan: Celebrating Advent as a Catholic

In honoring Mary's pregnancy, we are reminded of that most subversive of spiritual qualities: patience.

The essay below is the first installment of Carl McColman's Advent Diary.

  • Week Two: Should Advent be like Lent?

  • Week Three: Grappling with the Immaculate Conception

  • Week Four: Rejoicing amid uncertainty and fear

  • Week Five: Solstice and the gulf between Catholics and Pagans

    This evening my I attended the vigil Mass at my church-and thus began my first Advent as a Catholic. This time last year, I was merely studying the Catholic faith, having not yet made the commitment to enter the church. Two years ago, I had no Christian affiliation at all- but rather considered myself to be a modern Pagan.

    Advent has no real equivalent in modern Paganism (at least, not to my knowledge). For today's Pagans, the "reason for the season" is the Winter Solstice, not Christmas; but the weeks leading up to the solstice have no particular meaning. Therefore, Pagans who continue to celebrate Christmas (or who adorn their Solstice celebrations with the trappings of Christmas, all of which originally began as Pagan folk practices anyway) have no real incentive to resist the consumerist frenzy that marks the month following Thanksgiving.



    Advent is subversive: it subverts the breakneck pace of our instant-gratification, gotta-have-it-now society. The closest many people come to the power of Advent is making sure the kids don't open any presents under the tree before the morning of the 25th. "Wait until Christmas." That's not too far from the real message of Advent: wait. Be patient. Find meaning and joy in the "not-yet" times of life.

    Many Pagans are counterculturalists, and therefore reject the commercialism of December as yet another symptom of a sick society. But ceremonially speaking, Paganism offers no real alternative to the shop-till-you-drop ethos of mainstream culture. So for me, re-connecting with Advent means tapping in to a powerful, and positive, way of replacing the holiday hustle with a more truly contemplative embrace of the month prior to Christmas.After spending so much time in the Goddess community, I love it that Advent is all about honoring a pregnant mother-to-be. No one forces a baby to be born "now," just because the impending birth is so exciting. Instead, we wait-with joyful anticipation and perhaps with impatient excitement, but however we feel, we wait anyway. Advent is a brief season for reminding us that such waiting has its own beauty and spiritual value. And that's true for everyone-no matter what your faith.

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