November 29, 2021 Column Father De Celles

(Due to Bulletin deadlines, I’m writing this on Nov. 19.)

SEASON OF ADVENT. Today we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. Every year most people forget that the Advent season is primarily about preparing for Christmas, and instead spend these weeks prematurely celebrating Christmas, and doing so from a largely secularized perspective. And then when the actual 3-week Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day, they put all the Christmas things away and go on with life!

This premature celebration isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. Many Catholics see people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.

But take care. First of all, much of this early celebration is driven not by a Christian culture, but by commercial interests taking advantage of that culture. Sadly, much of this is nothing more than retailers playing on our emotional attachment to Christmas in order to increase sales. Increasing sales is not a bad thing, especially in the current economic environment, but the reduction of Advent to a period of rampant commercialism/materialism and emotionalism is a terrible thing. All but forgotten is the spiritual/faith preparation to celebrate the wonder of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

Don’t let this happen to you this Advent. Remember to spend time preparing for the celebration of the Day that changed the world forever. Here are some suggestions:

            — Catholics always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. I know many are still enduring suffering due to COVID. But maybe you offer these up as penance, transforming them into acts of loving acceptance of God’s permissive will.

            — Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.

            — Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to read one of the Gospels beginning to end in Advent. Or perhaps read short passages daily from the Christmas-related  texts: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1:1-17.

            — Of course, charitable giving is a wonderful way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. A lot of folks are struggling financially this year, so think about giving to those folks directly, or to charities that help them. The parish Giving Tree is another very good way to do this, as is the special collections for Catholic Charities of Arlington Diocese.

            — Receiving the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass (or watching the livestream) and Adoration during the week.

                As always, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent. But this year we will also add, for Advent only, confessions every Sunday Morning between 8am and 9am. Which means confession is available every single day during Advent (except Christmas Eve).

            — Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Follow the 10 Commandments. Love one another as Jesus, who out of love for us stripped Himself of the glory of heaven to be born in a cold manger, loves us.

Two Other Advent Changes. Unfortunately, as I announced last week, we cannot yet return to our tradition of having “Lessons & Carols” this Advent, as our choir is still in the process of rebuilding after Covid.

            Also, instead of my usual three-part Advent Series, this year we have Advent Holy Hours on the first 3 Thursdays in Advent. At each of these we will have Exposition, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We will also pray the Rosary together and I will give a short talk on the topic of, “Faith, Hope and Charity at Christmas.”

A LAST WORD ON THANKSGIVING. I hope you all had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving last week. In last Sunday’s bulletin I included the first Presidential declaration of America’s Thanksgiving Day, by George Washington. Today, as we still struggle with the effects of Covid, I’d like to cite Abraham Lincoln’s declaration, given in the middle of the Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity…peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, asa day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union….

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles