During Advent, reclaim what is properly yours: recollection

| Liz Kelly | November 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

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.

Distraction, as one of the chief enemies of recollection, has become a major part of our lifestyle and economy, and it seems to come on like a flood during the holidays. It takes some determination to jump out of this polluted stream and find a new, cleaner, clearer one. Cultivating a recollected heart that enters readily into prayer is not something we can do quickly, busily. Recollection is not a process of efficiency or a personal achievement; it is rooted in emptiness, stillness; it is a hidden gift from God that requires patience, practice, repetition and, ultimately, humility — the decision to make ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit without an agenda. To our distracted culture, recollection is the enemy, to be vanquished with one more hour of television, one more trip to the mall.

Romano Guardini, in his excellent book, “The Art of Praying,” would argue that distraction is not simply an obstacle to prayer; it’s an obstacle to our flourishing as human beings. He claims that “Recollectedness is not an isolated condition, but the mind’s right and proper state, the state which enables man to establish the right relationship to men and things.”

He explains: The basic meaning of the word “recollected” is “to be unified, gathered together.” A glance at our life will show how much we lack this aptitude. We should have a fixed center, which, like the hub of a wheel, governs our movements and from which all our actions go out and to which they return; a standard, or a code by which we distinguish the important from the unimportant, the end from the means, and which puts actions and experiences into their proper order; something stable, unaffected by change and yet capable of development, which make it clear to us who we are and how matters stand with us.

Does this describe you? Or do you wish it would?

Maybe this Advent can become a time for you to return to that fixed center that is Jesus Christ, the newborn king. Begin your Advent with a fearless examination of any distractions that disturb your clarity of mind and heart. Are there things that might be jettisoned or reduced? Shopping, the Internet, television, your phone? Are there ways you could more frequently become “unplugged,” literally disconnected from what Thomas Merton calls the “unquiet, universal trance?” Is there a practice you and your family might feather in — a decade of the joyful mysteries prayed slowly after dinner — that might help to build a habit of recollection during this holy season?

It is your proper state — to be recollected, unified, centered in Christ — and Advent is an ideal time to reclaim what is properly yours.

Liz Kelly is a member of St. Michael in Stillwater. This article is excerpted in part from her forthcoming book, “A Catholic Woman’s Worth: Finding, Healing and Flourishing the Feminine Heart in Christ” (Loyola Press, 2017).

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Category: Advent