Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the new Church Year in western Christendom and also the First Sunday in Advent. During this four week period we prepare ourselves to more properly celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, AKA Christmas.
Just as importantly, we prepare our hearts for Christ's presence in the here and now, at the time of our death and when he comes at the end of time to renew the entire creation as he has renewed individual souls.
So, what do we do with this, especially if, as we all are, we find ourselves busy preparing our families, homes and lives for the celebration of Christmas? If we are to be truly ready for Christ we should be preparing ourselves inwardly on a daily basis to receive Him, establishing quiet places in busy moments where we can listen for His voice.
My own practice includes making an Advent retreat.... I'll be heading to Sparta Wisconsin on Thursday to spend four days in prayer/ relection and to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary with my Cistercian brothers at Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey. I want to be more like our Blessed Mother, more transparent, more attentive to God's will, more purely in love with God.
What will you do to prepare your heart this Advent? Maybe you can't get away for multiple days of prayer. But we can all do the small things that add up to the one thing necessary.
- Get up a little earlier and greet God's dawn in prayer.
- Stop by a church for a few minutes and light a candle in honor of our Lady and Her Son.
- Be kind to others who have no idea why we are called to love one another because they don't yet know the One we love.
I enjoy hearing the words of St John Chrysostom about the different advents of Christ:
"At his first coming, God came without any brilliance, unknown by most,
prolonging the mystery of his hidden life by many years. When he came down
fromthe mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus asked his disciples not to
tell anyone that he was the Christ. Then he came like a shepherd to look for
his lost sheep, and in order to get hold of the unruly animal, he had to
remain hidden. Like a doctor who is careful not to frighten his patient
right from the start,in the same way, the Lord avoids making himself known
right from the beginning of his mission: he only does so imperceptibly and
little by little.
The prophet announced this event without
brilliance with these words: “He
shall be like rain coming down on the
meadow, like showers watering the earth.”
(Ps 72:6) He did not tear open the
heavens so as to come on the clouds, but
rather, he came in silence into the
womb of a virgin and was carried by her for
nine months. He was born in a
manger as the son of a humble craftsman… He went
here and there like an
ordinary man; his clothing was simple, his table even
more frugal. He walked
without resting to the point of being tired
But his second
coming will not be like that. He will come with such
brilliance that it
won’t be necessary to announce his coming: “As the lightning
from the east
flashes to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt
will be the time of judgment and of sentencing. And the Lord will not
as a doctor, but as a judge. The prophet Daniel saw his throne, the river
flowing at the base of the tribunal, and that device made entirely of fire,
the chariot and the wheels (7:9-10)… David, the prophet-king, spoke only
of splendor, of brilliance, of fire flaming on all sides: “Before him is a
devouring fire; around him is a raging storm.” (Ps 50:3) All these
comparisons aim at making us understand God’s sovereignty, the brilliant
light that surrounds him, and his inaccessible nature."
Come, Lord Jesus!