Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus. This is no small task. “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries” (CCC 522). Sometimes in my prayer life, it is easier to gloss over Advent in favor of the Joy of Christmas. Compared to the season of Lent, there doesn’t seem to be a tangible daily devotion or challenge (like giving up chocolate) that can be used as reminder of the liturgical season that we are in. But this is not the truth. There are plenty of ways that we can prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Word made flesh. It is a beautiful thing to take four weeks to prepare for Jesus’ coming, to unite it with the centuries of preparation and waiting that God’s people endured. Here are five ways that we can find Christ this Advent.
- Fast: Fasting is a practice that is so contrary to what the world teaches today. We give our time and energy to many things that are not of God, and do not contribute to our salvation. Many of these things are distractions, that deter us from our true purpose. Often times, we use our bodies in a way that does not give glory to God. By denying our bodily needs by fasting, and letting God fill the void, we are sacrificing ourselves and using our bodies for the glory of God. We are fasting for reparation of sins, fasting in communion with others for prayer intentions, and fasting to drive out demons (Mark 9:29). Let us fast this Advent for a particular intention, asking the Child Jesus to hear our prayers.
- Contemplate the Mystery of the Incarnation: We should take some time each day to contemplate this Mystery that is central to our Faith. God became man. The mission of the Second Person of the Trinity was to render the Infinite into the finite. Divinity became forever entwined with humanity. There is nothing that can be said that will truly do this Mystery justice, or to fully explain it. But there are a lot of good reflections by early Church Fathers, Saints, and current Church Fathers (talk to a priest or read some homilies from one of the recent popes!) that can help us further enter into the Mystery of the Incarnation. This contemplation can also enhance our understanding of the Theology of the Body, namely the complementarity of body and soul.
- Saint Andrew Novena: Claire introduced this novena to me when we first started dating. It is a thirty day novena that is said 15 times a day, which combines prayer with contemplation of the Incarnation. How can you not immerse yourself in the Mystery with the words, “…at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold”? My first intention when I started praying this novena was for Claire, that if it be God’s will, He should bring us together to be married. I later found out that Claire also prayed for this intention that same year! This novena is one of my favorites, since it truly focuses on the Incarnation, and is a month-long daily reminder that Jesus is the center of our lives. It also emphasized for me for the first time that God knows no time, since in this novena we pray that Jesus hear our petition “in that hour” that he was born into the world. TIME TRAVELING PRAYERS! Click here for the Novena prayer.
- Read the History Surrounding the Infancy Narrative: There is no better way to prepare for the coming of Christ than through reading about the history and surrounding events of the Infancy Narrative. Read the Gospels with a focus on the months leading up to Christ’s birth. Note the regions, people, and events mentioned and immerse yourself in the history to supplement Scripture. This context can give us a further appreciation and a deeper understanding of what is happening in the Gospels. It also offers insight into some of the parallels with events in the Old Testament (for example, the Egyptian mandate to kill the Hebrew firstborn sons in the time of Moses compared to Herod’s killing of the Holy Innocents).
- Respect the Dignity of Each Human Being: Take some time to pause and examine how you interact with others this Advent season. Try your best to give other people your full attention. Look them in the eye when talking. Put your phone down and be present with those in the room. Really listen to the other person, instead of interrupting them or holding on to your next thought. Just as Jesus came in a sort of “disguise,” and not in a way that many people were expecting the Messiah to come, we must recognize that each human being is Jesus in disguise. Give the dignity each person deserves to each other. Find Jesus in each person you meet this Advent season.