Advent Resource: Pray as You Go

One of my favorite resources for Advent, or any day, is Pray as You Go. I use the app, and you also can access the resources through this website.

This season, Pray as You Go is offering a “New Beginnings Advent Retreat,” with additional Advent material in the daily prayers on the home page and the “Living the Magnificat” imaginative prayer exercise found on the “Going Deeper” section.

As the website says, Jesuit Media Initiatives of the United Kingdom produces the web site with material written by a number of Jesuits and experts in the spirituality of St. Ignatius. Check it out!

What Can I Do?

As we move further into December, the noise of the secular Christmas can easily drown out the quiet of the second week of Advent. The only solution I know is to spend some time in deliberate quiet, listening and waiting for the Lord.

So what do you do with your mind while you are quiet? Composing a list of last-minute gifts and worrying about your credit card balance probably won’t work.

Instead, consider asking Jesus a question: What would you like me to do to improve our relationship, Jesus? Then listen and expect an answer.

Visio Divina: What Do You See?

Happy Second Sunday of Advent! On this day, we light two candles in the Advent wreath and place all the animals in the empty creche. (I’ve collected miniatures of animals over the years that remind us of beloved pets who are no longer with us. That’s why my creche has a calico cat, an orange tabby and several dogs.)

I’ve been using a new resource for Advent: “Meditations on the Birth of Jesus: A Renovare Advent Resource for Spiritual Renewal” by Miriam Dixon and Margaret Campbell. You can find it here.

This resource, so far at least, focuses on lectio divina and visio divina. All my life, I have been words, not pictures, so it’s interesting for me to try to develop the skill of studying an image to find insight from God.

The image for the first week of Advent is on the cover of the guide, above. It’s from the French painter Georges de La Tour in the 17th century. It has two names: “The Nativity” and “The Newborn.” The image is of Mary and her mother with the infant Jesus. The white on Jesus symbolizes purity. The image is lit by a single candle that’s not in the picture.

Dixon and Campbell encourage us to see the intimacy, the hopeful expectation and the yearning on the faces of Mary and her mother. The meditation closes by asking us to think of someone in our lives who needs kindness and figure out a specific way to bless them this week.

Sounds like a plan!

Christ Has No Hands But Yours

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila

As a mindfulness practice today, watch your own hands. Are they blessing the world? How are you using them?

Looking for Jesus in the Dark

“When I am dangerously tired, I can be very, very busy and look very, very important, but be unable to hear the quiet, sure voice of the One who calls me His beloved. When that happens, I lose touch with that place in the center of my being where I know who I am in God. When that happens, I am at the mercy of all manner of external forces, tossed and urned by others’ expectations and my own compulsions.”

Ruth Haley Barton

Being very, very busy is often the way of American life in the first two weeks of December. Last night, I ran into a friend who had events scheduled every night for the first 20 days of December. That’s a lot.

Ruth Haley Barton has an excellent podcast called Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. This season she offers a series on Advent, with Scripture, sound advice and exercises to help us achieve a true state of waiting for Jesus.

Her first podcast in the series suggests that we think about places where we are waiting for Jesus in the darkness, and we make an effort to sit and wait for Him. Scroll down through the link to find the First Sunday of Advent episode.

Welcome Advent!

It’s the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a beautiful season that’s becoming a best-kept secret. Don’t like the hassle and hurry of December? Celebrate Advent instead.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I do these things:

  • Set up our Advent wreath, pray over it, and light the first candle during morning prayer.
  • Put up the barn for our creche. And nothing else. No animals, people or angels. They arrive in the barn in an order during the Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve.
  • Get out my Christmas china, which I’ve collected over decades. (I also get out my Christmas socks.)
  • Put up the Advent calendar, which my grown son still likes to use when he is at the house.
  • Switch to Advent and Christmas music. You can look at Spotify for Advent playlists to some things that are not “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.” (Although that is still my favorite.)

Enjoy the presence of the Lord in your house on this holy day.

Happy Advent Eve!

Christmastime is here.  Well, not really.  It’s actually about to be Advent, the four-week preparation for Christmas that is its own beautiful, peaceful season.

Preparing to celebrate Advent can be as simple as you wish.  Many people have an Advent wreath that you can either buy or make from a log or evergreen branches.  You need candles.  Traditionally it has four candles: three purple and one pink.  Lately the Advent candle packs have been adding a white candle to light on Christmas as well.  You can order these on Amazon or get them at many church bookstores.

When the kids were little, we used to pick out worthy Christians … saints, if you will … to study during the season on Advent Eve.

We also have an Advent countdown calendar that created the manger scene when finished.  These calendars are everywhere, and they are enjoyable.  Most of these calendars start with Dec. 1, which is actually workable this year.

Another cool tradition is wrapping up 25 stories … little Golden Christmas books towards the end … in newspaper or magazine pages.  The kids can open one a day to read.

You actually can do as much or as little as you wish on Advent.  Just keep it slow and beautiful to enjoy the Lord’s presence before the day you open presents.