This weekend with the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Church brings to a close the Liturgical, and next weekend we begin a New Liturgical Year with the Holy Season of Advent.
When everything around us screams "Christmas is upon us!" something in our hearts whispers, "No, not yet. I have work to do, and God will not be fooled."
The world is impatient and does not understand nor obey the need for preparation, prayer, reflection, of making ready.
The Scriptures of Advent are clear. They speak of flattening mountains and filling valleys, we come to realize... what it's calling us to do is to make our hearts and the world around us a place for God to dwell. But it must begin with our hearts first. We cannot give what we do not possess.
Advent also begins with a call to vigilance. There are numerous Scripture passages that call us to this vigilance and anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Being vigilant means, also, that we are prepared. We are not caught off guard. Imagine if Christmas morning came and you woke up suddenly realizing that you forgot to prepare! Imagine if you had no gifts, no food purchased and no plans were made. Of course you wouldn’t allow that to happen, but we do sometimes allow it to happen spiritually speaking. We often are not prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ within our hearts.
Will we be ready when our Lord Jesus comes for us? Are we preparing for it with the same fervor that you prepare for Christmas through shopping, cooking, decorating, etc? Are we looking forward with hope to that day when He will return? Are we awake and attentive to the numerous ways that God speaks to you on a daily basis?
This year and no doubt this Advent and Christmas will be very different for all of us because of the restrictions and challenges with COVID-19. All the more we might be tempted to rush ahead to Christmas and not prepare. It’s an understandable temptation. For sure, we will want to make Christmas as special as we can, given the isolation and difficulties we have all been experiencing. Maybe this Advent could be a creative time for all of us. Maybe a time to focus on the sick, those who are cut off and isolated, our shut-in’s and those who are sick. How can we make this a holy and special time for others? Maybe we can focus as families on the needs of the poor, being reminded that Our Lord entered this world poor and lowly.
Maybe our prayer life and family prayer could be different this year; focusing on attentiveness to the Lord’s voice and thanksgiving, helping us to move away from ingratitude and complaining. Using Advent as a time to grow in the virtues.
Holiness does not happen by osmosis. It happens as we submit ourselves to God’s plan and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to live a virtue filled life.
There are the cardinal virtues:
Prudence from prudential, meaning "seeing ahead” is the ability to govern and discipline oneself.
Justice: is the virtue which regulates man in his dealings with others.
Fortitude: or courage deciding to do what is right, even when the pressure is on to be selfish and give into sin.
Temperance or moderation. It’s not just about not overeating or overdrinking, it’s about keeping our tongue quiet, refusing to gossip, submitting our thoughts to God.
Then there are the theological virtues:
Chastity: guarding our minds and hearts so they are pure.
Temperance: isn’t it interesting temperance shows up twice? That’s because it is a key virtue.
Charity: having the love of God in our hearts.
Diligence: avoiding sloth and laziness.
Patience: accepting our situation and circumstances as they are; learning how not to insist on our way all the time – learning to think of others before ourselves.
Kindness: we equate this virtue with being nice or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers – it is learning to orient our hearts toward other people, even when they don’t deserve it and don’t love us in return. This virtue is meant to lead us and others to repentance.
Humility: learning the hard lesson that we are not God and never will be – it is to place our faith in God that He will lead us in the best way to live. We are to put complete trust in the Lord and not deceive ourselves with the pride of our egos or the lust that tells us the lie that some “thing” can replace our need for God.
Lord, as Advent begins, help us to put our eyes on You. Help us to open our ears to Your voice. And help us to open our hearts to Your glorious presence. May we be attentive to You and your desire to love us. Jesus, I trust in You.
Prayer for Advent
Heavenly Father, source of hope and love, help me to enter into this holy season of Advent. I desire to grow in virtue, to be a sign of Your love for my family and for the world. I want this holiday season to be filled with light instead of darkness. Remind me that this world is passing away and that what matters are the things that come from above. Help, me by your grace to be sober and alert for the day when Our Lord returns in glory. Father, help me make this holy time an offering to You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
God bless you this holy Advent season,