I’m baking cookies, with my Advent wreath lit, Jim Brickman is playing my favorite Christmas songs in the background… through “Alexa”… It can’t get more Advent-ee than this, or can it?
As you anticipated the Gospel at Mass this weekend, what were you expecting? The Magi making their journey? Or Joseph talking to Mary about finding a room at an Inn?
Every First Sunday of Advent, I’m always surprised. I’m never expecting, or maybe more appropriately, ready, to hear: “Be watchful! Be alert!” That’s not what I tend to think of when I think of Advent. Snowball fights, warm cookies, hot chocolate, mulled wine, cozy nights watching movies, is more like it. Not, “you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…”
The True Meaning of Advent
The Church tells us this is exactly what Advent is about. It’s about preparation for the infant king, who is coming spiritually into our hearts and homes this Christmas, and who also once walked this earth and will come again in the flesh for a second Advent… when we know not the hour. So, the Church, in her loving care, presents to us once more what Jesus himself tells us time and time again, in Scripture, and each year at this time: he is coming. We must prepare, and not delay.
How do we take this message seriously this Advent? How do you live “adventus” (“coming; arrival” in Latin) where you will obtain the true and lasting joy that we’re all seeking? It may sound daunting at first, but preparation can be simple. Make Advent the season it’s intended to be: a season of prayer.
1. Make a Stay-At-Home Retreat
We have so much time at home these days, why not seize the moment and make a retreat at home? You may have to set a few boundaries if you don’t live alone but this time retreating is doable if you set aside a day or two to enter into the silence and recollection Advent invites us into.
Not sure where to begin to prepare something like this for yourself? Here is a stay-at-home schedule and food and drink guide for ideas on how to stock your kitchen for this time with the Lord. After all, it’s Advent, not Lent!
2. Pray the Rosary with Renewed Focus on the Joyful Mysteries
Why have the Joyful Mysteries been coined as joyful? Because they invite us to ponder exactly what Advent invites us into; the story of Mary’s “fiat”, and the Birth of Christ which brings forth our salvation – the means by which we can return to God. And what is more joyful than that?
Since the Joyful Mysteries are exactly what we seek to contemplate in these days of Advent, take up the Rosary anew and pray these mysteries like you’ve never prayed them! If a Rosary guide helps you stay focused, or guides you through parts you’re still learning, you may want to use Hallow to guide you. I pray my daily Rosary with the help of Hallow. Sign-up for Hallow by December 11, you will get a 3-month extended free trial and 20% off after the trial.
For further inspiration, as you seek to grow in joy, pray the Joyful Mysteries with my “Joy Seeker Rosary” or take advantage of the prayer prompts I developed to help you open yourself to the Holy Spirit and the fruits he wants to pour into you, including that of joy!
3. Participate in the Sacrament of Confession
I joked that Advent isn’t Lent. But while Advent is not a penitential season under Canon Law, it does have penitential themes… After all, we are preparing for the return of Christ; that should include penance. Thus, we need to consider where we are on our spiritual journey, which includes asking questions like, What do I need to turn away from to grow in deeper union with God?; Am I having daily conversions? If not, why?; What are my sins, and am I truly sorry?; Do I believe what the Church teaches regarding sin? If not, why?; Who can you talk to about your questions?
This Advent, if you only do one thing (excluding in-person or spiritual communion of the Eucharist due to COVID-19), seriously consider participating in the Sacrament of Confession.
Blessed is She has a beautiful guide to help you prepare for Confession and participate in the Sacrament.
4. Pray the O Antiphons
I remember the first time I learned about the O Antiphons. I was like, “There’s a certain day in the liturgical calendar that the Church introduces and proclaims, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!”? And the answer is, yes!
Since the sixth, seventh or eighth century (sources provide different dates). The O Antiphons are the seven antiphons of Advent, from the Liturgy of the Hours – the official set of prayers for the Church that marks the hour of each day with prayer – used for the Magnificat canticle at evening prayers for the seven days from December 17 to December 23.
We were all made for beauty. Queue these up on Youtube, chant them out loud to yourself (even if you’re off-key), or pray them silently. These ancient prayers will feed your soul!
5. Be Intentional About Forgiving Someone, and Give Thanks for Them
Taking up the penitential tone once more, use the Advent season as a time for purification and growth. This may mean being intentional about acts of service, tithing, or for some, it may mean letting go of a grudge and forgiving someone who has hurt you. This will take humility, and it will no doubt be a sacrifice.
When you make the choice to forgive, replace the grudge with ongoing prayers of gratitude; name specific gifts you see in this person and praise God for them. These prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving are prayers we often forget to pray. I reflect on this some in “Gratitude: A Remedy for Holiday Drama.”
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” Help me be watchful, alert, and ready.