It is not an uncommon phenomenon: Just at the moment when we are trying the hardest to draw closer to the Lord, spending more time in Advent prayer and the devotions of the season, we are met with a spell of aridity. All of the spiritual masters write of such periods, whether it is John of the Cross’ “dark night of the senses,” or Teresa of Avila’s “second mansion,” or more simply, a loss of the desire to pray. If you’re experiencing this in the holidays, you are not alone.
One of my habits in recent years has been to prepare for Christmas proper well in advance. I shop for presents throughout the year, order my Christmas cards in October, and I refuse to buy any new Christmas ornaments during Advent — what I have is what I have. Once Advent hits, I’m finished. If the present has not been purchased, it doesn’t get purchased. If the Christmas tree lights don’t work, I go without them. I need my Advent to be Advent. I need this time for recollection and prayer, and as I get older, I protect it more fiercely.
To celebrate the season of anticipating Christ’s birth, music is a common element for parishes, schools and other Catholic entities in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In my last reflection, I encouraged you to practice some silent prayer this Advent. You may have discovered by now that sometimes that’s a little tough. Maybe you miss the noise, some kind of stimulation. You miss your words, your routine, your rote prayer. When I remove myself from the whir of the world and am left with only myself and the Lord, all that silence can feel a little, well, empty.
Patience is like a parking space at the mall on Black Friday — it exists but it sure seems in short supply.
Instead, impatience has become the default. We don’t like waiting for anything — for traffic lights, for weight loss or even commercials that interrupt our favorite shows. Even Christmas trees now come already decorated.
Last October, I took my 82-year-old mom on a silent retreat. The priest who led the weekend told the following story.
He had been teaching second-graders when the subject of prayer arose and he simply asked, “How do you talk to Jesus?” Hands shot up. The first child called upon said, “First, you have to shut up.”
We don’t like waiting for anything — for traffic lights, for weight loss or even commercials that interrupt our favorite shows.
This contemporary abhorrence of waiting stands in stark contrast to Mary. Her graceful patience is something to consider, especially as Catholics begin the prayerful preparation of Advent.
If you’re old enough to remember Mr. Rogers, whose “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” children’s program ran on public television for years, you may remember his song, “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.”
The following Advent wreath prayer is intended to help busy households make Advent a prayerful time during the rush of Christmas preparations. The language is fairly simple, intended to be used for personal prayer and reflection or by groups of adults or adults with children. Options are noted to allow for participation by a variety of members of a household.