Engagement: One Long Advent
Much like Advent, engagement is supposed to be a time of joyful anticipation and preparation. "Supposed to" is the operative phrase. Most of the time, being engaged feels like what Advent felt like growing up: a long wait for something amazing that seems like it never ends.
Waiting is funny. At first, it goes by fast. Think about the holidays when you were a child. Before you could blink, it would be Thanksgiving, and Christmas was so close you could practically taste it. But once the First Sunday of Advent came around, time seemed to slow down. Every day drags on. Advent felt like an eternity, as though Christmas was a lifetime away.
Well, it turns out, that's pretty much what being engaged is like. We got engaged on Jan. 27, 2018, and we spent the first month or so afterwards in a blissful haze of excitement, joy and a bit of impatience.
Only six days after the proposal, Nicole showed up at John's parents' house with a binder and an eager smile: "Now we get to plan the liturgy! Which eucharistic prayer should we use?"
In all seriousness, time has slowed to a crippling, agonizing pace. Some days, it feels like we are living in a permanent state of Advent, and though our excitement is through the roof, our patience is wearing thin. We just want to be married already!
Our relationship has been punctuated both by that kind of excited impatience and the need to be patient and prayerful in periods of waiting.
A great example of this would be a conversation that we will have at least once a day: Nicole will bring up something that she believes demands immediate attention, and without fail, John will respond, "Do we have to talk about this now?" – to which Nicole will respond emphatically: "Yes, we do!"
While impatience can be a cross that both of us bear, we have learned along the way to call each other to more consistent patience and to use the waiting seasons of our lives for deeper growth -- no season more so than that of our engagement.
Everyone has warned us that this time will fly by, and it does; especially when competing with work obligations, attending or serving in double-digits numbers of weddings, a lengthy trip to Rome and other unforeseen obstacles to leisurely wedding planning.
We often need to be reminded to stop, take a breath and enjoy the moment of being engaged (and maybe the bride needs that reminder more often than the groom).
It is providential, then, that our engagement falls during Advent -- perhaps the church's most well-known period of preparation and anticipation. As we wrap presents and hum Christmas tunes and light our Advent wreaths, it is easy to forget that we are preparing for something bigger: our God breaking through and into our humanity, choosing to come among us as a helpless child.
Just so with engagement: It is easy to be caught up in the Instagram content and pithy hashtag and forget what it is that we are being prepared for -- that is, a divine in-breaking of a different kind.
The sacrament of matrimony breaks through our individual selves and binds us to another person, from the depths of our being, throughout every facet of our lives. This Advent reminds us of the advent of our next chapter, beginning on April 27.
Whenever someone would say "I can't wait" for something, John's late grandmother would always say: "Don't wish your life away." She was right.
As much as we are eagerly anticipating April 27, it is important to take this time and appreciate it for what it is. The joy of Christmas cannot come without the anticipation of Advent, and the same is true for our engagement.
Waiting cannot be wished away, no matter how hard we try, and try we have! Instead, just as we embrace what the period of waiting in Advent does for our souls, we must embrace what this period of prematrimonial waiting is doing for our hearts: offering a time to prepare and get everything ready, including ourselves, before the big day.
John Grosso is director of digital media for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a communications consultant. Nicole M. Perone is archdiocesan director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. They are engaged to be married in April 2019. They are guest columnists for Catholic News Service.