The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 49
I think most would read our Father Benedict's talk of the "joy of the Holy Spirit" with regard to Lenten abstinence as deluded or darkly humorous. We have a hard time imagining how "the joy of spiritual desire" can in any way be enhanced by physical denial. But in the Christian tradition, Lent is not punishment. It is preparation for New Life in the Easter experience. For the heart that truly desires this New Life, then, the Lenten practices, painful as they may be in the short term, can produce the profound joy of the Spirit who brings about New Life in us.
Although Advent is not a miniature Lent, it shares the quality of penitence in preparation for New Life. In Advent we are called to "prepare the way" for the coming of Christ both in the womb of Mary his mother and in our own lives, where God seeks to be born anew. Let us enter this season with the joy of spiritual desire that comes from feeling New Life growing within the depths of our very selves.