Week 1: Transforming Anticipation

Transforming Anticipation

by Father Patrick Riffle, LT, CHC, USN

There are few places on earth that are filled with more anticipation than Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC where young men and women begin their journey from being civilians to become United States Marines. From the moment they step off the bus and find themselves standing on the iconic Yellow Footprints to the final test of the “Crucible,” the recruit is filled with a sense of anticipation and of wondering what the next moment of training has in store for them.

The anticipation they feel is a mixed bag of emotions ranging from a sense of fear and anxiety for what will be asked of them, to the motivating sense of longing for that moment when they will earn the coveted Eagle, Globe and Anchor and be given a new identity and title, that of United States Marine. It is anticipation and longing that changes them from the confused recruit standing in the darkness to the confident Marine standing in the light of day on the Parade Deck.

The change in these recruits is in many ways similar to the change we celebrate each Advent. The liturgy of Advent season begins with us much like the recruits standing in the darkness. The readings speak of a world that is desperately in need of a Savior. We listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah filled with anticipation for the one who will deliver us from a world of confusion, war and, the darkness of sin.

As the season progresses, we find our anticipation changing. We move from confusion to hope, as we hear the Baptist cry announcing that the Messiah is coming. We begin to see the words of Isaiah’s prophecy come true, and begin to see a path forward. A path that will lead us out of darkness and into the light of the Kingdom. And we find ourselves longing a new identity, no longer slaves to sin and death, but rather sons and daughters of God.
Then it happens, all our longing, all the anticipation finds it’s fulfillment on Christmas morning, as we welcome the birth of our Savior. We become the ones who once wandered in darkness, but have now seen a great light. We emerge from this great season emboldened, confident and claiming a new title and a new identity, that of Christian.

Father Patrick Riffle is an active-duty Navy Chaplain currently serving Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.