This Sunday we officially start a new liturgical year with the beginning of Advent. The color for the season is purple, the color we use for Lent. This is not coincidence. Both Lent and Advent share a common character. They are both seasons of preparation, one for Christmas, the other for Easter. They are both penitential seasons.
That’s right, Advent, like lent, is a Penitential season. Another name for it, in fact, is ‘little Lent.’ Practically speaking, that means that during the next four weeks, we should be practicing the three traditional penitential practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Those first two come naturally for most people this time of year. However, the third is often overlooked. That is to our spiritual detriment, because fasting, too, is an important part of our preparation for the joy of Christmas. But what a difficult time to do it!
The entire world seems to fill up during these four weeks with every delicious food imaginable. So, what should we do? Like Lent, I recommend giving something up-it doesn’t have to be big-until Christmas morn. If we love fudge or divinity, let’s offer that up as a sacrifice in preparation for the Prince of Peace. If we are partial to Christmas Cookies, let’s offer our self-denial as a sign of our love for the Babe in the Manger. If Christmas music is our delight, why not try to hold off and offer our enjoyment of it as a gift to the Infant King?
Beside choosing a small fast for these next four weeks, we should also seek out opportunities to be generous, especially with those in need. There are many opportunities that present themselves this time of year. In particular, I would like to warmly recommend planning to make a donation to the annual Catholic Charities Christmas Collection. This is the only time that Catholic Charities asks for a donation all year long and it is a great way to support their work with those who are most in need. Their envelopes will be mailed to homes and present in the Churches throughout Walla Walla.
Finally, we turn to prayer. Of course, it would be a wonderful thing to simply dedicate more time to personal prayer during this month. Perhaps we might consider going to daily Mass with greater frequency. Families could commit to praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary once a week. One thing I would like to recommend is a specific Marian Prayer that the Church, in particular, commends to the faithful during the Advent season-the Alma Redemptoris Mater. As a part of our Advent preparation, the priests of Walla Walla have chosen to say it together every morning that we gather for prayer. I would like to invite all Catholics to join us in this practice, praying the prayer daily throughout the weeks of Advent.
Loving Mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, a Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.