Advent and the New Year!

Mary and Eve

Happy New Year!  Yes, a new Liturgical Year is upon us and I would like to invite you to begin (if you don’t do it already) to deliberately live the Liturgical Year in your home.  We do this naturally to a certain extent when we celebrate the main Holy Days such as Christmas and Easter but there is so much more to living the Liturgical Year.

What do I mean by Liturgical Year?  Mary Reed Newland in her book How to Raise Good Catholic Children wrote,

“Everyone is liturgical.  You don’t believe it?  Then look up the definition of liturgy in the dictionary.  After some revelations about liturgy and the Christian Church, there comes a definition that calls liturgy “a rite or body of rites for public worship.”  […]

For instance, it’s good to conduct patriotic rites on national holidays, recalling the birthdays of great presidents, celebrating our independence, honoring the memory of our war dead.”

Patriotic liturgies help us as we commemorate something that remains in the past.  We think historically with gratitude for those who sacrificed for us.

But with our Catholic liturgies we commemorate someone who is present to us.  We think both historically and in the present, with gratitude for Jesus Christ who sacrificed for us and who is eternally offering Himself for us to the Father even NOW.

While our public patriotic rites remind us of our American heritage, it is our Catholic liturgical traditions that give us spiritual strength and a sense of identity as Catholics. The seasons of the Church (as well as the Octaves) remind us to hit the “pause” button so that we may dwell in the mystery that Holy Mother Church presents to our senses.

advent wreath

What is Advent bidding our souls to ponder?  In looking at images of a very pregnant Mary, I think we can ponder themes of waiting, anticipation, patience, quietude, peace, and hiddenness.  There is a palpable interiority about a woman with child.  How many mothers have looked upon their swollen belly and wondered at the mystery of this new life and the recognition that another person is being formed within one’s own body?  We can imagine Mary lost in thought as she contemplates the child within, the circumstances of His unusual conception, and the wonder of just Who He is.

Think of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah who was rendered mute when he was inside the Holy of Holies.  And now, the Holy of Holies comes to him!  Into the enforced monastic quietude of their home, Mary brings the Christ child enfleshed but hidden within the solitude of  her womb.

Remember this when you receive Him in the Eucharist at Mass.  Ponder how He chooses now to be enfleshed within you.  Rejoice at His gratuitous love to make Himself little enough to be held within the body of flawed human beings such as ourselves!  Realize that each time we receive Him in His Sacrament of Love, we become “little Marys,” able to bear Him into the world, bringing consolation and peace to the souls we meet.

Wonder to yourself as you see others receiving our Lord at Mass that they have become living tabernacles, worthy of veneration by virtue of the fact that they, too, shelter the Body of Christ within them. What a reminder that each soul now is a gift from God to one another and a gift to Him so that He may live His life in us if we cooperate with him.

“All things were created through Him, all things were created for Him.”

– Colossians 1:16

For that reason we must keep Mary as our example of perfect cooperation with the Will of God!

How can we be quiet and still enough to rest in these mysteries when the whole world is having parties and celebrating Christmas already?

One suggestion is to refocus the things you normally do to prepare for Christmas.  Please consider the following suggestions.  Don’t try to do all.  Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in deciding what to incorporate and what you might eliminate to make this Advent a holy, peacful season for your family.

  • Keep your tree bare for the first week
  • Decorate the tree with just purple lights and until Gaudete Sunday – then add or switch to white
  • Decorate the tree but wait to turn on the lights until the Feast of St. Lucy, Dec. 13
  • Create a prayer space where you place your Nativity scene and pray there each night as a family.
  • Begin praying morning prayer or evening prayer there as a family
  • Learn some Advent Hymns and stick to those during family prayer
  • Light an Advent wreath as part of your prayer before meals at dinnertime
  • Instead of wishing people a Merry Christmas try wishing them a Happy Advent. That will open up some conversations!!!
  • Set up your Nativity a little at a time.
  • Teach your children to place straw in the manger each time they do a good deed. They’ll want to make sure Baby Jesus has a nice full manger full of straw ready on Christmas Eve
  • Bring baby Jesus from the Nativity Set to church and ask Father to bless it
  • Gather together with neighbors on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and plan a Posada. You can read about it in Tomi dePaola’s children’s book, The Night of Las Posadas.
  • Give yourself permission to skip some festivities and just be together as a family.
  • Create a Jesse Tree. See the websites linked on the Kids Page for information.

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