|Holy Card from my mother’s funeral|
Beth Anne has thrown out an Advent challenge that I am motivated to try. Every week in Advent she will offer a list of Advent-related writing prompts that her readers are invited to use and share. The one I’ve chosen for today is “Share your favorite way to pray.”
Let me begin by saying I don’t exactly have a single favorite prayer in any category, but I have several favorites in most prayer categories. I do like to intersperse pithy prayers throughout my day. It is a way that I keep my mind and heart focused on God.
During Advent I like this pithy prayer:
Divine Infant of Bethlehem, come and take birth in our hearts!
This short prayer reminds me that Advent is a time to turn our hearts into mangers. We want Jesus to be comfortable remaining with us, so we fill the manger with clean and soft straw by our prayer, sacrifices, and acts of mercy.
At this time of year the Northern hemisphere brings us darker days and colder temperatures. We yearn for physical light and warmth. We also long for its spiritual counterparts, the light of God’s Word and the warmth of God’s love.
At sunset on Saturday the 2015 Church Year began. So, Happy New Year! What will the new Church Year have in store for us? It will be a year of grace and transformation, personally and communally. We will mark the year with holy seasons.
First we celebrate the feast days of the Advent-Christmastide seasons. Sundays are feast days. So are Holy Days, like the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Nativity of the LORD, the Holy Family, and more.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. says, “Feast days are to time what churches are to space. They mark sacred moments, moments of grace. They form us. Keeping the feasts is part of one’s commitment to live as a child of God.”
This Church year has a new set of Scripture readings, cycle B. The Sunday gospel readings of 2015 will be selections from the evangelist, Saint Mark. Through Mark, the Church starts us off with Jesus’ admonition to “Be watchful! Be alert!”
Why? The lyrics of one of my favorite Advent hymns give the answer.
People, look East and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.
People, look East and sing today: Love, the LORD, is on the way.
Our Savior is near. We want to welcome him. The focus of the entire Advent season is on preparing to welcome our guest. The traditional spiritual practices are prayer, fasting, and acts of generosity.
Personal prayer is central. The more time spent praying, both privately and communally, the closer to Jesus we grow. The more Christ-like we become, the easier it is to make sacrifices and to be generous. Good Advent-Christmas reading can inspire our prayers and sacrifices. My suggestion: Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). Also the prayer ideas in my post of the 15th, inspired by Msgr. Vincent Rush, can be used not only before Mass, but anytime. Let’s pray for one another during this holy season.
Divine Infant of Bethlehem, come and take birth in our hearts.