The term advent derives from the Latin ad venio, which means to “to come.” The Advent season, which marks the Catholic new year, is meant to be one of preparation for the coming of Christ. Most people associate this period with the coming of Christ at Christmas – baby Jesus born in a manger. While this is correct, it is not the full story. Advent is also meant to be a preparation for the second coming of Christ.
If you have followed the readings for the past week, one of the running themes has been the end of times. To put the message of these reading succinctly: we’ve got to get right with God because we don’t know the day nor the hour that he is coming. SPOILER ALERT: we are all going to die, some of us sooner than others. If you were to drop dead in the middle of reading this post, would you be ready to be called home (or at least purgatory)? Like the Boy Scouts, we are being reminded to always be prepared.
Spiritual Jump Start
The Church knew what she was doing when she organized these special seasons within the Liturgical Calendar. The majority of the year is made up of Ordinary Time when the priest normally wears green. This models the life of Christ who spent the majority of his life in obscure ordinariness. We too spend much of our time conducting the affairs of our own ordinary (normal) lives. Sometimes (often) we fall into ruts, even in our daily prayer lives. Special seasons like Advent are meant to help give us a spiritual jump start. Like the Lenten Season, we can incorporate three key characteristics to enrich our Advent: prayer, mortification/penance and almsgiving.
Mix Up Meditation Material
Assuming you have already incorporated a spiritual game plan that includes daily personal prayer, I recommend using Advent as a time to mix things up a bit. If you don’t set time aside each day to pray and meditate– start! If you are currently meditating on the daily readings, for example, think about switching to a spiritual classic like The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva or Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I am recommending these books because they are meant for the laity.
Practical and Powerful
A practical, yet powerful practice we can include during this Advent Season is to invite a fallen Catholic back to the sacraments. Most parishes conduct Evenings of Reconciliation during Advent. Invite a friend or family member who has been away for a while. You may be the very instrument God chooses to use to bring them back into the Church. What better gift to give during this season than the sacraments?
Plug Into Parish
Finally, we should find ways to plug into our parish activities. Most importantly, we should participate in the rich liturgical celebrations during this month, like the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Feast of St. Juan Diego and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Perhaps your parish has some cultural celebrations like the posadas celebrated in many Hispanic communities. Another way may be for your family to volunteer to light the candles of the Advent Wreath prior to mass.
More to Come
In the next few days I will write more about Advent. I will be reviewing a devotional from Magnificat to help with your daily meditations. I will also be writing about how to use entertainment to get you in the right seasonal spirit. Finally, I will share a number of family traditions associated with Advent and Christmas. Later tonight, I will share our first two posts on the Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath.