The entire country, it seems, spent the past few days running roughshod over Thanksgiving in a mad dash toward shopping and decorating for Christmas. Life was focused on all things consumer. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me and a handful of “What about Thanksgiving?” people.
I love Christmas as much as the next person, but I also like each celebration to have its due, and I like them to remain in order, thank you very much. This might mean I have Holiday OCD, but so be it. I like Halloween before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving before Christmas. But mostly, being Catholic, I like Advent in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m an Advent girl. Because if I wasn’t, I’d probably fall over dead.
You see, most of the year I’m an insane goer-doer type, and Advent gives me a reason – a command – to slow down. It calls me to be led to the “place where God is,” and although I wish I didn’t need this excuse, I do. So, while many people were putting up a tree and stringing lights this weekend, I got out our Advent Wreath, the Nativity Scene and, most especially, this:
During Advent, my morning bus rides are focused on reciting/reading/reflecting on the Liturgy of the Hours, the “public and common prayer of the Church” meant to sanctify the day. About 75 percent of the time, I also use the Evening Prayer section right before bed. Sticking to this discipline exposes me to an ancient practice from the early days of the Catholic Church. I think we are what we consume – be it food, social media, books, music, movies. During Advent, I consume the Hours, and I think in some small way, it helps me be a better person.
While the Liturgy of the Hours is used mostly by priests and religious, lay Catholics (or anyone interested, really) are called to use them as best we can in our daily lives. Few people do because we’re awfully busy with jobs and families. In fact, if I didn’t ride the bus, I know I’d have a hard time working them in. But lucky for me, I ride the bus!
Centered around a four-week rotation of the psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours also contain daily Old and New Testament readings, intercessions, short prayers to mark five different times of the day, and my favorite, writings from the early Church Fathers. For instance, this gem from St. Anselm:
“Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.”
Amen. Christmas is coming. But Advent – and the waiting and resting and reflecting it contains – comes first.
(For a bit of Advent humor, read about this mom who tried to keep Advent from her kids by way of punishment.)