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The Joys of Advent

Every year, as the new liturgical year begins, we remind our older children and tell the younger ones for the first time that Advent is a game of two halves. The first 15 days we contemplate the second coming of Christ in glory at the end of time:


"So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:44).


Only in the last 9 days, the so-called Christmas Novena, do we contemplate the first coming and prepare hastily to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem:


"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)


Every day we wait, we stay awake, and we prepare. A sense of anticipation for something great to come accompanies us and as we enter the Christmas Novena, the joy builds up even more because we know that we are almost there … almost!

The Church refers to this time as the ‘Joyful season of Advent,’ not as a mini Lent as we are sometimes led to believe; we stress this with our kids so that they understand the difference. And because it is intended to be a joyful time, it’s therefore important for us that we live through this period with the right attitude and sentiment in order to fully prepare ourselves to welcome the child Jesus into our little imperfect Domestic Church.


I am always so grateful for the strong liturgical seasons because, unlike ordinary time, the instructions on how these should be entered into are pretty clear and straightforward.


In our house, as the first week of Advent is about to begin, we prepare ourselves individually, but we also recognize that it is very important that we prepare as a family, as well. Rain or shine, we put our wellington boots on, and off we go to the park to collect the greenery for the centrepiece that will accompany us in our prayers from week to week.


As the first candle of the Advent wreath is lit at the dinner table by the youngest child in our family, our journey begins.


Then the Advent calendars come out and every morning that feeling of expectation is renewed … What will I find behind that window? What is hidden inside that drawer? What am I expecting to find in it today? Am I ready to receive it?


The first two weeks of Advent are for us a time characterized by a certain sense of excitement founded on the hope that Christ will come again in Glory, and similar questions as those we ask every morning before opening a new window of our calendar are put in front of us again: When the time comes, what will it be like? Am I ready to receive Him now? Am I ready to welcome Him now? Can I say Maranatha, ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ with confidence?


Attending regular confession becomes a key part of our family’s journey to Christmas – the older kids have become more rigorous about it than even us parents.


Every day we wait, we stay awake, and we prepare. A sense of anticipation for something great to come accompanies us and as we enter the Christmas Novena, the joy builds up even more because we know that we are almost there … almost!

Christmas decorations begin to appear in the house little by little; the tree and the empty nativity set are intended to arrive on the scene last.

Fasting in our family looks different during Advent. Unlike during Lent, you will still find wine on our table, and weekly meals are pretty much the same as in ordinary time … so why and how exactly do we fast?


The why is simple – fasting helps us to prepare to receive something greater. If our bellies are full and we eat everything we want there is no space left for expectation, for what we truly need.

As to the how ... Well, we keep Christmas out of Advent! We push back anything that belongs to the Feast: No early decorations, no Panettone or Pandoro (We’re Italian.), no Makowiec (We are also of Polish origin.), no Torta imperial (ha! and Spanish too!) till Christmas. The best of wine, drinks, chocolates, and everything else is kept for the celebration. Only certain Carols are played in the background as we cook or do things around the house.


The joyful sentiment gradually builds up to a crescendo and the house reaches its peak of beauty on the 24th of December! We are finally ready, in spirit and flesh, to rejoice and celebrate the event that changed the world and brought our Redeemer to us.



Your sister in Christ,


Chiara


Chiara Finaldi is a wife, a mother of seven, a catechist, and a blogger from London, England. In 2015, she founded Catholic Mothers, an international online community where women can share the joys and sorrows of motherhood and receive support and guidance. She is the creator and publisher of the Catholic Mothers Planner and readily welcomes new projects that aid fellow Catholic families in the passing of the Faith. She enjoys ‘wasting’ time with her husband and their seven children, and delights in the gift of an enormous extended family where music and good food is never lacking. You can occasionally catch her blogging at Catholic Pearl.

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