Stepping Across the Threshold to Blessed Hope at Advent
Friday, Dec. 21, 2018
By Karin Hurley
Special to the Intermountain Catholic
It was a brisk December morning when we third graders of Long Island’s Bicycle Path Elementary School unloaded from buses outside of the Fifth Avenue Lobby of the world’s most famous building. Milling about on the sidewalk, we craned our necks back, searching the façade as it grew to a height of 1,250 feet, the top eclipsed from view, as the Empire State Building folded in on itself, narrowing from bottom to top – as if the building itself was waiting to reveal its secrets.
Entering the Fifth Avenue Lobby, I was immediately in awe. My eyes darted about, earnestly capturing every element, processing the sights and sounds and committing them to memory. I joined the other students in forming two neat lines. We shuffled forward, dwarfed by the soaring ceilings replete with murals. The silent prominence of the famous Fifth Avenue desk, standing guard for the bass relief of the building itself, set with 14-karat gold and aluminum in marble, called us forward. There was a palpable sense of majesty and wonder, and my 9-year-old self grasped this well.
Butterflies quickened in my stomach as we divided into groups and boarded the elevator bound for the open-air Observatory on the 86th floor.
The elevator doors opened at the gift shop, buzzing with activity, selling all manner of memorabilia, from souvenir plates to pins, postcards, keychains and guidebooks. The temptation to dive into the glitz and electricity of the shop and spend the few dollars in my pocket was hard to resist. But, I caught a glimpse of the sky through a nearby window, and the observation deck on the other side of the glass, wrapping 360 degrees around the famous spire, a place in the clouds where heaven and earth converge and become one. Ignoring the shop’s tantalizing wares, I steadfastly made my way towards the promise of what awaited outside.
I placed my hand on the door to the observation deck, and as I pushed it open I was filled with breathless anticipation. In that moment I was momentarily caught in a closed circuit of time and space. My breathing froze. I was aglow with excitement, wonder and possibilities. A simple step across the threshold from the interior to the exterior, inhaling and exhaling, transported me from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Trusting in the firmness of the concrete beneath my feet, I walked to the edge of the building to bear witness to creation as far as the eye could see, to a stillness of the soul, a perfectly transformative experience.
Advent is akin to that experience: placing our hands on the door, pushing, and stepping across the threshold. Advent frees us from the glitz and electricity that builds during the month of December, the rush toward Christmas, and instead wraps us in the warm glow of wonder and possibility that comes with the incarnation of our Lord and Savior. Advent is that breathless anticipation that comes with reaching beyond ourselves, stepping closer to Christ, and grasping God’s grace.
During Mass we pray that we await the Blessed Hope, the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. These words help to steel us for our first footfalls onto the deck, the trust that there is something solid beneath our shoes, that it will support us as we step into the clouds. Mindfulness of the coming of our Lord, treated with breathless anticipation, transforms our material universe and opens our hearts to appreciate and celebrate the stunning sights, of living every moment aware of God’s presence in our lives. Advent is our spiritual Empire State Building, offering that particular opportunity to step across the threshold from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Karin Hurley is director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City Office of Stewardship and Development.