Advent Is Upon Us!
Advent is upon us! When many of us make our lists this time of year, we probably include decorating, shopping and baking; but fasting, extra praying, giving alms and doing penance may not make the top of the list. However, I'm on a mission this year to make Advent the penitential season it's meant to be. "Penitential?! That's for Lent!" That's right; Lent is a major penitential season, but Advent is a minor penitential season. We enter into a time of waiting, of anticipating the coming of our great Savior. As Father Robert Barron points out, "...we don't need a Savior unless we're deeply convinced there is something to be saved from." For me, I need the Church's yearly reminder of Advent to help me recall why I need a Savior. My heart is not ready to receive such a gift. My hope this Advent is to use the Church's teachings and guidance to truly prepare for Christmas, and in the Church's wisdom, she encourages us to be penitential as we joyfully wait.
Penance can take many forms, and it does not have to be burdensome or take away from the joy of the season. In fact, it can enhance the upcoming Christmas celebration, which is traditionally celebrated from Christmas day to Feb. 2, the feast of Candlemas, or Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord. There's plenty of time to celebrate the birth of Christ!
Before the big party starts on Christmas, my family and I are going to complete a works of mercy Advent calendar, focusing on one task each day. There are some ideas online that we will reference, but we will also add our own ideas to make it personal. We hope to incorporate extra prayer, some fasting, and almsgiving into our preparation for Christmas as well. All of these can be done joyfully--we know for certain that our Light will be entering the darkness of the world! With this certainty and hope, we can prepare with self-discipline yet excitement and joy.
What a blessing Advent is. (And what a busy, stressful time December can be.) I pray that we can take small steps to prepare our hearts for Christmas, that we can navigate the long to-do lists with gentle anticipation and focus on preparing not only our homes but our hearts.