I am so grateful that Advent is upon us; my favorite time of year! It is all hope, depth, mystery and promise of light, and it feels like we need it; it feels as though we have all been so occupied with politics, natural disasters, willful (and unpersuasive) belligerence and our own daily anxieties and stresses — so many people I know are anticipating Christmas with dread rather than joy — that we need our heads turned toward something great!
In my column at The Catholic Answer I put it this way:
Advent coaxes us out. We look up and there is a darker sky than before. The stars show more clearly, and they inspire us to hack through the things we have allowed to imprison us, so that we may walk a freer path and ponder what transpired in a lonely cave in Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago — what it meant then, and what it still means for all of us today.
Because it is monumental, this parousia is an encounter with Love as it had never before existed, and as it will never end.
And, yes, it has “already happened.” But if God is outside of time, and we know He is, then that momentous event “is happening” even as you read this. Right now, a star is shining brightly; a people are moving toward the places from whence they came; a young woman is great with child; wise men are lifting their eyes to heaven and wondering. The place of our own origin, from whence we came, beckons; it sends a flare as a guide! And the One who is All in All is moving toward us — in breathtaking humility — to show us the way back.
Like Mary, we are great with expectation…
Read the rest here.
Normally, at about this time, I am sharing reading ideas for Advent. For the most part, I am this year recommending what I have recommended in the past — great books on Advent are always useful (I am very sad that I appear to have loaned out Father Alfred Delp’s book, Advent of the Heart: Seasonal Sermons And Prison Writings 1941-1944 which I have lost track of) — and of course I remind you to consider the Magnificat Advent Companion (their apps are just great) but if you’re looking for something a little different this year, something that is not so much a “day to day” bit of Advent reading but a human story with which you might be able to relate in your own life of faith, I recommend a few books that are not actually about Advent at all, but might serve in surprising ways:
Choosing Joy: The Secret of Living a Fully Christian Life looks to me to be a terrific Advent book because it is literally a journey from darkness to light. Dan Lord has written something deeply personal and affecting and this seems to me a book that can really help “condition the soul” for wonder, especially if there has been too much darkness, of late. Lord is Hallie Lord’s husband, by the way, (come to think of it, her book is a good Christmas gift!).
Over at her blog, Elizabeth Duffy recently reviewed Chris Haw’s From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart Rekindling My Love For Catholicism for the Patheos Book Club and while I haven’t read it, Elizabeth’s take encourages me to think that it may be a very worthwhile read for someone “easing back into” Catholicism after some time away. It’s like permission to enjoy ritual, bells-and-smells and all that stuff, again, and without over-guilting oneself for having been away.
And finally, though I have recommended it before (actually I raved about it in 2010, I again suggest you pick up a copy of Brent Landau’s Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem. It’s great gift-giving, but it’s even better Advent reading!
Into all of this Advent reading (and, hopefully, prayer) you might want to add the gorgeous strains of specifically Advent-themed music just released by the Benedictines of Mary, in their Advent at Ephesus. The CD debuted at #1 on Billboards “Classical” list, and I have to tell you I’ve been listening to it everyday. It is a true antidote to the too-soon-endless-loops of Christmas music that so many are already wearying of.
For more Advent thoughts, links and recommendations, check out Marcel LeJeune’s very extensive Advent Post.
UPDATE: Fr. Michael Duffy says Hurry up already and get here, Advent!.
Meanwhile, Margaret Rose Realy explains why she is on a mission to displace poinsettia with rosemary!