Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A Blessed Advent and Happy New Year to you all! Today we begin a new liturgical year in the Church with the First Sunday of Advent. We begin our preparations for Christmas and reflect on the coming of Christ into the world. After the readings over the past few weeks, where we reflected on the end of time, we may be looking forward to a change, but it may be surprising to many that the Gospel has a similar tone, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” During Advent, we actually reflect on the three comings of Christ: two thousand years ago, each day, and at the end of time. Our preparations aren’t just to commemorate something that happened a long time ago, but we are actually preparing in a real way for that day when the Son rises again in the East. We are made aware of the fact that Christ comes to us and is truly present each day in the many blessings we receive, in the many people we encounter, above all in the Eucharist where He is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, waiting for us in the tabernacle to spend time with Him and receive Him into our hearts.
Like Lent then, Advent should be a time where we make some firm resolutions to deepen our spiritual lives and grow closer to Christ. That awareness of the end of time and of Christ’s striving to enter our hearts more deeply should motivate us to give God a little more of ourselves. Especially when our world gets so caught up in all of the commercial nonsense, as Catholics we are challenged to think rather of the eternal.
Therefore I would like to share a few possible ways in which we can all take advantage of this season of grace. Hopefully we all pick a few to commit ourselves to, so that as each day passes, our hearts can become more and more ready for the coming of the Lord.
We are blessed at our parish to have Mass at both 8:30AM and 12:05PM, Monday through Friday, and many local parishes have other convenient times. There is no better way to grow closer to Christ than to receive Him each day and hear his Word in the Scriptures.
Each Monday, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed from 12:30PM-8PM. Consider stopping in at some point to say a prayer, reflecting on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and His great love for us.
As much as I encourage confessions even more frequently, Advent is a perfect moment in the year to cleanse our hearts of our failings. We have extended hours available, and hopefully as we realize all the good God does for us, we are prepared to admit the ingratitude we show by our sins.
Perhaps if we are not in the habit, we try and pray at least some of the rosary each day. Particularly reflecting on the Joyful Mysteries, we can really dig into and be inspired by the experience of Our Blessed Mother and her yes to God’s plan.
The four weeks of Advent offer an opportunity for us to pick up some spiritual work to try and reach each day. We can read through one of the Gospels; Pope Benedict XVI has a short beautiful work on the infancy narratives; with the canonization of John Henry Newman, we can look at a book of his prayers and devotions put out by Ignatius Press; or we can use this as an opportunity to read any Saint’s work that we’ve been hoping to get to.
As many of you may recall, last year as an early Christmas present we gave out cards for our parishioners to access the program. If you have not joined yet, please do! Go to www.notredamenhp.formed.org and register there. On FORMED you will find endless spiritual riches: movies for all ages, podcasts, books, documentaries, and a lot more.
In a world deafened by all the noise and blinded by the bright lights, I pray all of us make this a time of true spiritual growth, where we find, in the dark, quiet moments, the true reason for the season.
Yours in Christ,