As we know, Advent is the season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, not only as a child at his birth in the world, but also at the end of time – the Second Coming. The frustrating irony of this time of year dedicated to greater spiritual practice is that it is also one of the busiest and most distracting times of the year. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind as we continue to move through the season:
1. Simplify. Try to keep things as simple as possible. Try not to do too much shopping, or too much baking, or too much… whatever seems to consume you and your family that isn’t centered on the Lord. Cut down on media time throughout the day. Be sure that you are taking time for daily prayer and to be with family.
2. Keep an Advent Wreath at home. All you need are four candles and some greens from around the yard. The greens, which retain their color, signify eternal life. The circle of the wreath signifies the eternity of God, the immortality of our souls, and the eternal life won for us by Christ’s death and resurrection. The four candles not only represent the four weeks of anticipation of Advent, but also the 4,000 years between the time of Adam and Eve and the birth of Christ. The light of the candles points to the light that Christ brings to a world in darkness. The purple candles signify penance – the sacrifices and works of charity we perform to purify and change our hearts. The rose candle, lit on the third week, reminds us that we have reached the halfway point in our waiting and preparation. Light your Advent wreath as a family, perhaps at dinnertime, when you say grace.
3. Do some spiritual reading. Read the Sunday Mass readings ahead of time to help you focus and allow God’s word to speak to you more clearly. Find some other spiritual read – perhaps the life of a saint, something from the Lighthouse Media kiosk at St. Mary’s, etc.
4. Do some singing as a family – perhaps at mealtime or before going to bed. There are many traditional Advent hymns that are beautiful and rich in meaning: O Come, O Come Emmanuel; O Come, Divine Messiah; On Jordan’s Bank; Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming; Creator of the Stars of Night. If family singing does not fit your situation, take a few moments to read and reflect on the words of these songs. You can find the lyrics and tunes easily online. While we hear lots of Christmas music at this time of year, these beautiful hymns help us to keep our focus on the preparation of Advent.
5. Examine your conscience and get to confession. The more regularly we do, the more we open our hearts to the Lord and are changed by his grace. See the confession times in the bulletin. There are also ample confession opportunities in the Marshfield parishes.
Look at the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy and be intentional about performing them as a family throughout this season.