December marks the beginning of our soul’s pre- paration for the great feast of Christmas. Too often we concentrate on the material comforts and consolations of the season, to the detriment of our minds and souls. It is a good thing to look forward to music and mer- riment, but the celebratory delights of Christmas should not distract us from the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation, when a Virgin Mother laid God almighty in a manger full of hay.
The Church has set aside a time of spiritual pre- paration for Christmas. In the old days, Catholics were bound to fast and abstain from all meats, dairy, and egg products during Adventide. Today we are ob- liged to very little, but this does not mean that Advent is less important. It is a time to slow down, to take stock of the things that matter most and perform some inner housekeeping. All the Advent stories, hymns, and family customs are attuned to this notion and make for proper spiritual preparation, in anticipa- tion for the great graces of Christmastide.
Our fondest memories of childhood often center around Christmas. The winter cold makes the home a cozier place where, in an ideal world (!), the children settle down more easily and enjoy playful activities that bear meaning for the feast day to come. Families should endeavor to organize themselves so that the children understand the importance of Advent and share in the Church’s impatience to greet the coming of the Savior. We have included a few ideas in this newsletter.
It is important to remember that the family home is the only world our younger children experience. If this little world is organized according to a Catholic
spirit, their little minds and hearts will become im- bued with Catholicism. In this age of rampant materi- alism, the family home is the only place on earth where they are able to learn the true meaning of Christmas. Parents should therefore be on the lookout as to how they can help their children understand Christmas as the Church understands it.
Please take time to organize your homes in such a way that Advent becomes a reality, not just a thing of purely historical or liturgical interest. It is a time of penance, extra prayer, and learning. It is, in a sense, a time of mourning: we remember Adam and Eve’s first sin which plunged mankind into spiritual darkness and death. They and their descendants were con- demned to a long period of waiting and longing until the Savior should appear Who would free them from their sins. The Jesse Tree is a very good way of remind- ing children that Christmas is still quite a recent thing!
The Christmas presents we all look forward to re- ceiving should be seen as a reward for our prayers and efforts in preparing our souls for Christ’s birth. Two millenniums ago, all this world had to offer the Christ Child was the dirty and cold poverty of the stable. Let us try to offer Him something better: a soul cleaned by sacramental confession and made homely and warm by the practice of penance and virtue. There is no need for anything elaborate. Our Lord desires only generosity and love. His presence will do the rest. A soul nourished by a fervent Christmas Communion is the best abode He could wish for.
The community joins in wishing you a fruitful Advent and a very happy and holy Christmas.
Fr. John Brucciani