I believe that the anger at the root of the factionalism and polarization we are experiencing in society and the Church is due to the denial that each of us is grieving.

Is it not easier to lash out, to place blame, to build an icy emotional fortress of personal surety around ourselves, than to acknowledge that someone, something is being taken away from us?

The inability and helpless feeling to do anything about the situation - is it not a reminder of the impotence of our lives, like the loss of the grip on a drowning person who gently slips into icy, cold, dark waters?

What or who is being taken away from you at this time in your life? Is it a spouse...a job...your dreams...your sense of security...a marriage...trust, because of a betrayal...your physical health...a person, slipping away into Alzheimer's disease...your innocence...your self-worth? What is the veil that clouds your spirit? Is it regret...depression...loneliness...unrealistic or unmet expectations?

"Led away on foot by their enemies, they left you:" These words of the prophet Baruch are stark. They reveal the reason why mother Jerusalem is mourning and in misery. Her children have, for a very long time, been taken away.

This grief and longing reveal a serious underside to Advent - an underside so often left unattended due to the commercial glitz, advertising and false expectations that draw us like summer insects to the light, only to "zap" us and destroy our spirit.

Yet Christmas is approaching, ready or not! Under all the decorations, lights, presents and canned carols, it is the season in which those dark parts of us, those yearnings for wholeness, rise to the surface.

Advent is an often-missed opportunity to address our yearnings. How does a person break through the darkness? How is the yearning, the grief eased?

Israel was led away by her enemies "on foot" into exile, and it is "on foot" that she is led home by God. To move beyond our grief and our darkness, our anger and blaming, involves a shared movement: God advancing toward us to lead us to "Jerusalem," our true selves, while we move toward God and away from our grieving and mourning.

We see this double movement expressed in the seeming scriptural discord of the prophets Baruch, who declares that "God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure;" and Isaiah, who cries out, "Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low."

God commands the majestic greatness and beauty of the earth to bow to the needs of broken humanity, so as to advance unimpeded toward healing and justice while we are called to prepare within ourselves an unimpeded path for God.

Though the spiritual journey is always initiated by God, we must participate in that divine activity. That is why Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, writes: "I am confident that [God] who began a good work in you will continue to complete it."

The Philippian community shared with Paul a partnership in the Gospel. That is a trusting relationship with God. They participated in what God began in that community, and so increased in love.

While accepting the human experience of grief and loss as part of life, is not a giving over to grief an act of distrust which creates mountains and digs gorges, so no one can advance forward -as is exhibited by the anger, blame and judgment in today's polarized, fractured world? Is it not a lack of hope in the God who, accompanied by mercy and justice, saves us?

Rather than being drawn toward the light that destroys one's spirit, might you choose to wrap yourself in winter darkness, nodding off into Advent dreams? Dream of what God is calling forth from you - and, in that darkness, acknowledge your losses; and, in that acknowledgement of need and emptiness, become pregnant with a new life from God: a past birth in Bethlehem, giving us opportunity for a present birth.

Then there is reason to put aside our robes of mourning and clothe ourselves in the splendor of God. Isn't that what Christmas is about?

(Father Mickiewicz is pastor of St. Mary's parish in Oneonta. Readings for the second Sunday of Advent are Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; and Luke 3:1-6.)