Advent season is upon us! What makes these few weeks of the year the favorite liturgical season for so many Catholics? The Carmelite nuns would like to share what it means to them.
Daily Liturgical Readings
I love the scriptural texts used for daily mass, particularly from Isaiah and the prophets of the old Testament. They are rich in meaning and beauty, and some are beautifully poetic:
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. Is. 11:6
And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. Is. 2:2
The liturgical readings seem to draw me in to the spirit of anticipation and hope, because they all are pointing ahead to the great joy of … of what? Of God coming among us–not in a scary, wrathful way–but in the form of a poor, homeless newborn baby just like us. He seems to want to tell us that He will share in our sufferings of every kind.
Our God reveals Himself in a totally new way to the world. There is nothing about Him to fear. He obviously only wants love. There can be no other way of understanding the message presented before us at Bethlehem. He who is God does not allow Himself the ability to be anything beyond a helpless, human baby boy.
Maybe this season can be a reminder that God is not like this only at Christmas, but since He never changes (Ja. 1:17), we can always approach Him full of trust and tender love. Let us use this Advent time to open our hearts more and more to trust Him completely anew this Christmas.
Glowing Purple Candles
In the midst of winter chill the glow of candle light brings warmth and peace. The stillness of the flame bringing golden light to the darkness of a room lends one to prayerful reflection.
In our monastery we light the advent wreath every night before the evening meal (collation) as we say the advent prayer and short scripture verse for that day.
I am grateful for this tradition which is shared by many Catholic families as an Advent devotion. It may seem small but even the smallest practices help to remind us that something is different about this time. We need that.
Quietening Down … and Waiting
Well, we try!
Liturgical music is toned down to more chant and less “Alleluia’s”, and there are no flowers on the altar until Christmas (or a feast day in between). We make it a point to avoid visits with our families either by phone or in person. This adds to the mode of anticipation for the time of celebration that is coming later. We are in the monastic fast season so we wait before opening any special candy boxes that may be shipped in from family or friends. For now, we are preparing to celebrate. We are preparing our hearts and our souls with silence, listening, waiting … even in the darkness we are waiting for Him. The waiting makes our souls stretch, like the discipline of one who is exercising. He or she must stretch and hold weight and tension upon the body to build up strength and flexibility. So, even waiting in the darkness of our spirits is a good thing to do!
One of the most treasured customs of our sisters is the Carmelite tradition of picking a day to spend in silence and solitude with the Infant Jesus statue in our cell. Each sister draws from a set of cards the particular day she will have as her “Hermit Day” during Advent. She will prepare her cell in any creative way she desires in order to welcome the special Guest. After vespers the night before her Hermit Day she will process last in line of the sisters while singing her favorite Advent hymn. The the candle bearers stay by her side as she carries the Baby Jesus to finally arrive at her cell. From that moment until vespers of the next day she will spend in reflection and prayer.
You may want to see some pictures we have posted from an older post here.
There are other great reasons why Advent is a favorite time of the year for us, but these are a few worth sharing with you. Have a blessed Advent season this year!