To Thee have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust, let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded. Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. - Introit, First Sunday of Advent, Psalm 24
Thus begins the first Mass of the first Sunday of the new Liturgical Year. We turn way back to the beginning of our missals and begin again most fittingly with preparing and longing as we wait for the coming of our Messiah, that pivotal moment in the history of mankind when the Word was made Flesh and our hope for redemption was born.
I love how, as always, Holy Mother Church leads and guides us in how we are to go about this season of Advent. As the world goes crazy around us with baubles and glitz and noise and the constant imploring to buybuybuy the alternative of calm and peace and patience and joy offered by the Faith is palpable.
All they that wait on Thee shall not be confounded, O Lord...-Gradual, First Sunday of Advent, Psalm 24
Things are so clearly presented to us at Mass on this First Sunday of Advent. The altar is stark and without flowers. The organ is silent, lending an even greater solemnity to the music of the liturgy. The violet vestments visually remind us this season is not entirely unlike Lent, a time of penance as well as preparation. The readings call us to wake up from our ever present temptation to slumber.
Imagine if you would have gone to church this morning and seen poinsettias covering the altar next to the lighted Nativity scene with Baby Jesus in the manger, and heard the choir belting out Joy to the World. It's an absurd thought. But it should be an equally absurd thought that we would do these things in our homes before the proper time just because that's how the world around us does it.
Instead we willingly, trustingly, joyfully follow the Church's lead and embrace this time of waiting and restraint. Our homes become quieter. Our thoughts turn inward as we contemplate how we can best prepare our own hearts for His coming. We take time to find out within ourselves what needs to be done to make room in our own inns. We help our little ones to learn just a little bit more about love and sacrifice and self-denial and patience and hope as we live this season each year.
The world does not understand this at all.
But frankly, the world does not seem to understand much of anything anymore.
The world doesn't understand that sacrifice and patience and longing do not make us glum but in the long run cannot help but increase our joy. Self-denial leads to strength. Just as an earthly bride and groom increase their joy by waiting for each other the Church, the bride of Christ, embraces this time of waiting with joy. Yearning amplifies the satisfaction of the eventual fulfillment.
But when the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son... (Galatians 4:4)
Thus we wait for the fullness of time in the Christmas season to celebrate His coming.
As such, we live this season of Advent differently than the rest of the world. For our family, our traditions in our Domestic Church are well established and we follow them each year with gladness. There is comfort and peacefulness in keeping things simple and familiar in our homes. We gather each evening to light our Advent wreath and read the Jesse Tree readings for the day, the Old Testament stories telling of salvation history through the ages. After our prayers we sing the beautiful Vespers hymn for Advent, Creator Alme Síderum and the Marian antiphon of the season, Alma Redemptóris Mater. We abandon our usual loud and jolly musical selections and listen only to Advent music, the Benedictine Sisters' Advent at Ephesus being our favorite. We make personal sacrifices and mortifications, placing straws in the manger as a tangible sign of our efforts and progress, as well as our goal: preparing a fitting place for Him. We choose Christkindls and secretly do good works for each other in a spirit of love and service (and fun). We wait until Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, to put up our Christmas lights outside as a sign that the arrival of the Light of the World is drawing nearer. And we put up our tree on the 21st for Eliza's birthday, waiting until Christmas Day itself to add the decorations. We wait in joyful hope.
This year I also gifted each of my adult children with their own copies of Divine Intimacy, Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year. I found one of the beautiful Baronius editions and several of the out of print but fairly prevalent hardcover TAN editions. (I recommend you avoid the softcover version as you will want a sturdy book to use year after year.) This much loved classic contains a short meditation for each day, comprehensively covering many aspects of the spiritual life in a very doable three pages a day of reading, with richness and depth that can be mined for years. Advent is the perfect time to begin this book, or perhaps to find it on the shelf and dust it off and dig back into it once again.
So that is our simple plan for once again keeping Advent in our home. It's different from the world's ideas, and the world might even laugh at such a thought.
But today's Mass told us yet a third time-
To thee have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust, let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait for Thee shall be confounded. - Offertory, First Sunday of Advent, Psalm 24
We shall wait on Him and we shall not be confounded.
A few more links:
Celeste has a printable holy card for the St. Andrew Novena prayer which we will start praying tomorrow.
As it is the New Liturgical Year, Mary has a handy printable for recording our spiritual New Year Resolutions.
Here is the text and an audio for Creator Alme Síderum and for Alma Redemptóris Mater. These are beautiful chants that are not difficult to learn and would be well worth your time. Children naturally love to sing and we should provide them with the beautiful riches the Church has to offer in this season. Though we sing each night without accompaniment, Jonathan has also arranged an easy piano version for Creator, found here. (I believe I've also heard Kateri playing it on the harp.)
A most Blessed Advent to you and yours!