Happy Advent! What a joyful time of year this is! Advent is a time of great expectancy as we joyfully await the coming of Christ, the Messiah. Because we know Christ has already come it can be easy to forget the over aching thirst that our ancestors had for the long-awaited coming of the Savior. Just as in recent times, every age believes it is the one when Christ will come a Second Time, so too, it must have been that every age since the Fall, since a Messiah was first promised, that men believed it was in their time the Christ would come. But we too should cultivate this longing in our hearts for though the Second Coming and the end of the world may not occur during our lifetime, our own ends are already certain and we "do not know the day nor the hour". So how can we best prepare to receive Christ in our hearts? The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great: (*note, the tenth month refers to December as this was before the new calendar)
". . . Since the season of the year and the custom of devotion advises, dearly beloved, we announce to you with pastoral solicitude that the fast of the tenth month is to be celebrated, by which, for the plentiful harvest of all fruits, a libation of continence is most fittingly offered to God, their donor.
For what can be more efficacious than fasting, by the practice which we draw near to God, and, resisting the devil, overcome seductive vices? For fasting has always been food for the strong. (*emphasis mine)
Moreover, from abstinence proceed chaste thoughts, rational desires, and sound counsels; and by voluntary afflictions the flesh dies to its concupiscences and the spirit is renewed in strength.
But because the salvation of our souls is not acquired by fasting alone, let us supplement our fasting with works of mercy towards the poor. Let us spend for virtue what we subtracted from pleasure. Let the abstinence of the one fasting be food for the poor. Let us be zealous for the defense of widows, for the assistance of orphans, for the consolation of those who mourn, for the peace of dissenters. Let the stranger be taken in, the oppressed helped, the naked clothed, the sick cared for, so that whoever of us shall have his good works as a sacrifice of such piety to God, the Author of all good things, may deserve to receive the reward of the heavenly kingdom from the same God. . . "Fasting complemented by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy will help us to "prepare the way of the Lord" by purging our hearts of all desires contrary to the desire for Our Lord. The Beatitude says, "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God"; we are capable of adoring the Babe in the Manger when we recognize that He is God. One of the ten principal virtues of Mary, according to St. Louis de Montfort, is her "surpassing purity". Mary was the first to adore the baby Jesus not only because of carrying Him in her womb but also because she was so completely pure of heart- so detached from all earthly desires- that could see and know it was God Himself. The saints could recognize Christ easily in the Eucharist, and in others because of their great purity of heart. During this holy season, we should strive to purify our desires, detaching ourselves from the world, and attaching our hearts to the humble stable in Bethlehem.
In addition to our spiritual preparation, there are many practical aids in helping ourselves and our families enter into the holy season. Click this link to learn more about some great Advent and Christmas traditions.
Have a holy Advent!