Monday, November 18, 2002

'Tis the season to be jolly? 'Tisn't!


We are rapidly approaching Advent, which is viewed by many as a time to put plastic Santas on the lawn, to start playing Christmas carols, and to buy lots and lots of stuff. It is not enough that we celebrate Christmas by celebrating excess, but we also celebrate it much too early. The Advent season is not an extended Christmas, but is a time of preparation. The recent Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy says that

Popular piety perceives that it is impossible to celebrate the Lord's birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor and imarginated. The expectation of the Lord's birth makes us sensitive to the value of life and the duties to respect and defend it from conception. Popular piety intuitively understands that it is not possible coherently to celebrate the birth of him "who saves his people from their sins" without some effort to overcome sin in one's own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time.


Don't prepare for the coming of the Lord by merely preparing your front lawn with big plastic reindeer; prepare your soul for His coming through an effort to overcome sin. I have some suggestions for how to do this, taken from my parish bulletin:

  1. Fast: you could join Eastern Catholics in the Phillip's fast, which says not to have meat or dairy products on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday until Christmas. Think how good that Christmas dinner would taste! Of course, you could just make sure you follow the current Latin rite rule for the whole year, which is no meat on Fridays or some equivalent penance.
  2. Go to confession.
  3. Ten minutes of silence each day.
  4. Mute the commercials from the television, or turn off the TV entirely.
  5. Listen to classical music rather than top-40.
  6. Pray the rosary, the divine office, or perhaps the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Repeat ad libitum.)
  7. Read the bible every day. If you want "Christmasy" stuff, read Isaiah.
  8. Read spiritual books. I recommend Frank Sheed, St. Josemaria Escriva, lives of the saints (try the DeWohl novels), the Philokalia, and in general anything from Ignatius Press. If you are one of the many Catholics who disagrees with some doctrinal teaching of the Church, take the Advent season as an opportunity to study that teaching--don't disagree blindly, but rather give the Church the benefit of the doubt. You owe Christ that much.
  9. Heal or improve relationships with family or friends.
  10. Give to the poor. Perhaps rather than giving that fourth or fifth toy to a child, you and the child could give the money to the poor?
  11. Support your church. Lots of people have used the scandal as an excuse to quit giving to their parishes. Why not make up the slack, since someone has to?

If you make some effort to get your soul ready for Christmas, the real season to be jolly, the twelve days from Dec 25th to Jan 6th, will be much more jolly.


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