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“One does not resume by the greatest sins; one lets up little by little on the exercises of piety; one permits oneself small liberties that open the door to temptations; one makes oneself unfaithful in a thousand encounters of little importance that habituate the soul — that dispose it to greater infidelities — before coming to mortal sin.” (Saint Claude De La Colombiere, S.J.)
Advent is a mini-Lent, a Nativity Fast. It is intended to be a time of preparation for our Savior. Not surprisingly, as we enter into this season we enter into a time of temptation. Fudge everywhere! Materialism everywhere! It unfortunately can become the season of instant gratification. We can deny ourselves the temptation and temporarily reject it. Success! But (and this is especially true of addictions), if we don’t replace it with something what do we have? An interior void ready to be filled by temptations again (Mt 12:43-45). At their root, all temptations are a temptation of desire. We must ask to be filled with a new desire that is Holy. After all, this is the purpose God permits it to begin with. He is waiting to give you a Holy desire for Him. 😊
The St. Andrew novena that begins November 30 provides a great tool to use in gaining the grace of Holy desires. It is normally prayed 15 times a day, which at first glance seems quite overwhelming! Get creative…simply pray it 1-3 times each time any unholy desire arises—remember, that can be desires in the thoughts as well as the ‘flesh’. Or push the ‘pause’ button to step out of your hectic pace and pray it 3 times a day (sets of 5). You can also use it to transition into your daily meditation hour.
“For your calling, your election, was not so that you can merely escape hell. It was not a salvation from but rather a salvation for. It is a call to become a mediator of salvation like the prophets of the Old Covenant and the saints of the New. You are called to bring the light of Christ and the hope of salvation to others. Like Christ, you are called to take up your cross and lay down your life for the salvation of the whole world.”[i] (Catholic Gentlemen)
Advent is also the time to evangelize others on our true identity and beauty as human persons and as family. To do so we must first know it for ourselves, which takes time in conversation with God. Who am I? What has shaped me to become me? How much of me is of my own doing, and how much is of God’s? It can be supplemented with solid Catholic writings which give us the moral framework of Truth within which to understand ourselves and the world around us. The expression of Truth is an outcome of the experience of Love. For us to express Truth to others, then, we must allow ourselves to first experience Love, which is God Himself. And He waits patiently for us to turn to Him. As Dr. Anthony Lilles explains “The Holy Trinity may dwell in a soul for many years before the soul becomes conscious of the gift that it has been given. The humble love that such a gift requires can take years of constant vigilance and silent readiness.” … “Surrendering affections and offering painful sorrows with love draws this powerful blessing.” [ii]
Advent and Christmastide are certainly periods in which we are ‘steeped in holy images’. How different might our day be if, instead of a quick glance, we allow the extra moments to take in the full beauty they represent? How does that ‘prepare the soil’ of our heart to finally receive God’s love?
We are also prepared to receive the Christ child by integrating small pieces of time into our schedule to read the wisdom of scriptures and holy authors. “Baptizing our intelligence with revealed truth makes the necessary space.” Such writings form our mind in God’s vocabulary so that His speech becomes our own.
The best way to prepare to receive the Christ child is, of course, increasing reception of the Sacraments. Catholic Churches are hyper-vigilant about Covid-19 sanitation. Yet people will skip mass to instead shop in packed grocery stores. The sacrifice of the altar is a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the whole world. Catholics are the only people in the entire world who can bring the world into that atoning offering. Think about the profundity of that.
Rather than trying to fit God into your busy schedule, how life will change when instead you plan your schedule around God? Add in attending a daily mass each week or, if already a daily mass-goer, commit one mass to your desire for Holy desires. Schedule prayer first into your day and the rest of your tasks around that. This will naturally (err, supernaturally!) lead to a desire for confession; just do it! We continue to pray for Pope Francis, our clergy and religious who bring God to us in the sacraments and bring us to God in their prayer, as well as our country and worldwide Church:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen. (St. Andrew’s prayer)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
[ii] Dr. Anthony Lilles, Indwelling of the Trinity. SpiritualDirection.com https://www.spiritualdirection.com/2018/10/27/the-indwelling-of-the-trinity
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