By Martina Casey
Did you know that Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season? Albeit, different in its anticipation, it is nevertheless a season of preparation. As the priest giving confession this morning told me, Advent is a time to make room for Jesus in our hearts anew. How do we do that? How do we clean out the old, to make room for the new?
Let’s take a look at three practices traditionally associated with Lent that can help us this Advent welcome Jesus anew:
Fasting. The Nativity Fast also known as St. Martin’s Lent is a popular fast in the Catholic Church but especially in the Orthodox Church. The fast is a version of the contemporary Vegan diet (no dairy, eggs or meat) with a few twists like no oil on certain days and fish being allowed on a couple of other days.
What you could do: If the Nativity Fast sounds too hard, why not go vegetarian for Advent? I was vegetarian for all of my flower-child college years, six months of those were spent as a strict vegan. Both options require a little flexibility and sacrifice (isn’t that the point?) but both are doable, especially vegetarianism.
Almsgiving. When we think of traditional almsgiving we think money. Try to think of it in terms of the four T’s: time, talent, treasure and touch. Next week we’ll explore each in detail, in the meantime:
What you could do: Use your time to visit residents at your local nursing home or use your talent (cooking maybe?) to bake bread for your neighbor. What if you stepped out of your comfort zone and approached the homeless man/woman you pass on your way to work? Maybe share your lunch with him/her? And what if you just simply went out of your way to give someone you love an extra hug every day for Advent? Easy, right?
Prayer. Most popular during the Advent season are Advent Reflections booklets. Recently I was gifted an Advent Reflections booklet written by Fr. Daniel G. Groody. The booklet includes assigned daily scripture readings, reflection, meditation and a short prayer. For example, the prayer for tomorrow, the first day of Advent, is this: “Lord, help me keep my thoughts on the things that are above. Even as I spend time and energy buying gifts for others during this season, help me to invest above all in the gifts of your kingdom and the treasures of your love, your grace, and your mercy.”
What you could do: Get a booklet like the one I received and use it to help you grow closer to Jesus. Or what if you added just 15 minutes of prayer to your day? In 15 minutes you could say the whole Rosary. In 15 minutes you could read the entire book of Philippians. In fact you could read the entire New Testament during the Advent season by spending 15 minutes a day reading scripture. Most of the New Testament books are short, you could probably read multiple epistles in under 15 minutes, Jude, Philemon, 2 and 3 John combined won’t take longer than 15 minutes.
Until next time let’s keep each other in prayer; may the Lord give us the grace to put Him first this Advent and always.
St. Joseph pray for us.