Friday, December 11, 2009

I wrote these myself - honest!

Of late, my life has been consumed by the effort of finding, purchasing, fixing up, and moving into a new house - all in the span of just over three months. This while trying to make a living (with the emphasis on "trying"), stay involved in my parish, and keep the Right to Life involvement going. Needless to say, this has left little spare time for sharing thoughts here, though there has been no lack of subject matter.

So I won't let this effort totally languish, I'm posting a few articles that I threw together for a series on Advent which we're running in our parish paper. Though these weren't originally written as blog posts, I did write them, so I hope they count as content until I can get back to a more dedicated effort.

First Sunday of Advent – 29 November 2009 – The (nearly) Forgotten Season

Advent is a season which is easily be forgotten in our modern culture. It has largely been eclipsed by the commercial “Christmas Season”, which seems to start earlier and earlier each year. While Christmas music is heard everywhere and television is flooded with Christmas specials, all we might notice at Mass is different colored vestments and a wreath with colored candles. Some of us may remember Advent wreaths at home, and perhaps even “giving up” things for Advent, but even those practices have largely faded.

Meanwhile, many are concerned with “putting Christ back in Christmas”. One way to do this is by observing Advent, particularly in homes trying to raise Catholic children. In the Church Calendar, the Christmas season follows Christmas (the “Twelve Days of Christmas” begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th, the Epiphany.) The four-week season leading up to Christmas is Advent, which has its own rites and focus. One way to “put Christ back in Christmas” is to put Advent back into our lives

Advent is a major season in the Christian calendar. In fact, the Church Year begins with Advent, making the First Sunday the liturgical “New Year's Day”. The focus of Advent is not as much fasting (more appropriate for Lent), but simplifying and refocusing. While penance and self-examination is part of this, the themes of Advent are solemn but joyous anticipation and preparation. This can be hard to do amidst the press and bustle of the commercial “Christmas Season”, but it is worth the effort!

We'll be running a series of articles throughout Advent to assist with this effort. Here are some practical hints for families seeking to more fully celebrate this holy season:
  • Get a home Advent wreath. These come with four candles – three purple ones and one pink (rose). These can be lit during dinner or other family times – one additional candle for each week celebrated, with the pink one lit on the Third Sunday. This simple observance can help the whole family focus on this special season.
  • Another classic devotional tool is the Advent calendar. These colorful pieces of art count down through the days of Advent (usually beginning on December 1), with little doors that open and provide Scripture passages for the day. Some versions even have a little treat for each day! These are especially helpful with young children, but the whole family can enjoy them.
  • Simplify and focus your life by setting aside perhaps 15 minutes of television, Internet, or video game time to read Scripture and pray. Readings for each day are found in the bulletin – perhaps you could clip them out and use them all week.
  • Attend a parish or neighborhood Bible Study. Most area parishes sponsor them.
  • Do something “devotionally different” - perhaps a family Rosary or after-dinner Scripture reading, or have a brief family prayer time in the evening.
  • Encourage everyone in the family to attend Confession at least once in Advent.
As a parish, let's try to make Advent 2009 a special time of preparing for the joy of Christmas!

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