Advent is a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come and who continuously comes.
—St. John Paul II, General Audience (18 December 2002)
The first question we might ask about this season is, “What advent of our Lord are we celebrating?” The most obvious answer is that we are celebrating Jesus’s coming 2,000 years ago, as when we celebrate the Nativity on December 25. But the Church also sets before us two additional advents. The first is the coming of Christ to us here and now, in the liturgy of the Church, say, especially in the Holy Eucharist. Christ comes among us daily to fill us with His grace and conform us to Himself. The second is His Parousia, His future coming at the end of time. As Christians, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ’s glorious return. We make our own the words of St. Paul: “Our Lord, come!” And we echo St. John in saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
In terms of more concrete or specific devotions to adopt, there are many worthy of recommendation. Perhaps the best known is the advent wreath, a wreath of evergreens to which are fastened four candles. There are typically three purple candles and one rose/pink candle, and every Sunday of Advent one more candle is lit until at last all are lit as a sign of the true Light’s coming. If you have children, gather them around the wreath each night, especially on Sundays, and pray together in preparation for Christmas.
If you have a Nativity Scene or something similar, prepare the manger for the Christ Child. Some use small pieces of straw to make a fitting bed, each piece of straw used as a token of a prayer or charitable work done throughout the day. Have your children place these tokens in the manger each night. As your children are preparing their hearts for the Lord’s coming, they are also preparing a warm and soft bed for Christ.
Dr. Aaron Henderson
Dr. Aaron Henderson is a Faculty Tutor for the Alcuin Institute for Catholic Culture.