Tuesday, November 20, 2012
FIRST, PREPARE FOR ADVENT
But we need not let Advent go unnoticed. We can, indeed must, ignore the malls, the radio stations playing their horrible holiday ditties, the whole sorry lot. Advent is a time for preparation for Christmastide. But with all that is being flung at us now (and has been flinging at us since September) we must prepare not yet for Christmas but instead for Advent first.
We speak of New Year's resolutions. Let us suggest that what we should write down now is Advent resolutions. We at The Eye Witness wish to offer several possible resolutions we all might make to our spiritual profit.
The Church once wisely taught us that Advent is a time for fast and abstinence. Much shorter than the 40 days of Lent - this year Advent is only about three weeks long - surely we can begin our joyous expectations of the coming of the Christ Child by a little penance during this holy time. Our souls need this. Fasting, paradoxically, is true nourishment. It must be first on our list.
And there is more.
Surely we can strongly re-think our gift giving, can we not? Dear parents of growing little ones, give them less, not more. Prevent them if at all possible from seeing the tv adverts. They really do not need the latest Chinese-made garbage that will last only a few weeks before being thrown out. Those of you who are financially secure must try the hardest to slim down the gift lists. Those who are the working poor, and the non-working poor can find it easier to limit the presents under the tree. But the financially well-off should take pains to lower spending. And for the love of God and the health of their minds eschew completely any electronic gadgets. Think of how many wasted hours are spent staring at computer screens, cell phones and tvs. (Think, too, about the honeybee population which is dwindling at a terrifying rate, some of which can be directly attributed to the use of cell phones. Talking uselessly on a cell phone wont compensate for the collapse of food production should this bee problem grow any worse.) Is it too late to try to interest them in literature - not "Harry Potter" but genuine literature? At least introduce them to someone like Conan Doyle, for in the writings of this man their minds will be fascinated by his story-telling expertise. Does that young lad of yours like dinosaurs? Give him "The Lost World" by Doyle, and you will be giving him the best time of his reading life. Does that wide-eyed daughter of yours love stories? Giver her "Kristin Lavrensdatter" or "Little Women". She will always thank you for that. Of course give them some kind of amusing gift if needs must, but make it something of quality. Believe it or not it is still possible to find simple, hand-crafted items made in Europe (even, astoundingly, in the US) if you seek them out. Use your imagination to select fun items for them that will stimulate their imaginations and their creative impulses.
Give wine and food instead of the latest superfluous junk. Think of permanence, not in passing fancies. Don't ever look at the coming Christmas Season as an economic stimulator, a tawdry exercise in mere money grubbing. We are talking about something loftier than that.
Seek out a quiet Church and spend a few moments with the Blessed Sacrament. Find a good, solid Confessor and go to him to receive the Sacrament of Penance.
Yes, we all love Bing Crosby and his famous Christmas songs. They can be listened to in moderation. Yet it is far better to introduce yourselves to the music of our Christian ancestors. Many classical radio stations have gone now so it will be necessary for you to buy recordings of this music of the Ages of Faith. Let your mind and heart sing with the medieval musicians and get recordings of these works. This music is haunting and beautiful and it cements our connections with our Catholic past. (Not all modern music is to be disparaged, of course. If something written relatively recently has quality by all means let it fill you with the joy of the Season. Indeed one of the most beautiful modern Christmas-related tunes we have ever heard was written by, of all people, Harpo Marx! Lyrics are here: http://www.harpbycathy.com/guardianangels.htm)
It is good to be done with the cheap and the shoddy, whether it be with what we buy or what we read and hear or the hours we spend. Find times of quiet during the day or evening. Find a few moments for the Joyful Mysteries.
Select your Advent wreath and introduce into your home the old custom of Advent wreath prayers before meals, where the youngest, the oldest, the mother and lastly the father have their special duties during each week of the holy time.
Wait until we are far along in the preparatory cycle before we purchase our Christmas trees. Let us put them up closer to Christmas, and keep them up during the entire Holy Nativity Season if possible. In some areas we have to duck as we walk by houses on December 26th to protect ourselves from being injured by trees being flung out the front door. Such people understand nothing of what this time of year means.
Let us then use Advent to cleanse our sensibilities so that our thoughts and efforts are directed at preparing the straw that will make comfortable the manger which will hold the Word made flesh, the Lamb of God. Do not allow the money-changers to keep your mind misdirected away from the great preparatory days of Advent. Advent should not be wasted. Let us live this Advent as if it were our last
If we make a good Advent, we keep a good Christmas.
From the great Robert Shaw: http://youtu.be/VZkcimYymBA