As we begin our new Liturgical year, lighting our first Advent candle, we embark on a pilgrimage once again towards the Christ Child, a pilgrimage blessed with hope. Advent is the perfect time to rediscover the beauty and depth of Christmas hope. We are so fortunate and truly blessed that the Holy Spirit has inspired our holy father, Pope Benedict XVI to gift us with his new encyclical, Spe Salvi, Saved by Hope, at this moment in time to a world that is for the most part without God — a world seemingly depleted of hope.
Catholics are given this time of preparation by our Church to prepare our hearts, our families and our homes. We can succumb to the hustling and bustling that our material-oriented culture would have us participate in. After all, the newest toys, gadgets, electronics, and fashions are exploding from the television set, radio, the Internet, store window displays, and sales pages of the newspaper, each store boasting of the absolute best sale ever. Children know exactly what they want for Christmas and where it can be gotten! It's a difficult task for parents to teach the true meaning of the Advent season in an era when Christians are even prohibited to some extent from publicly expressing their faith-filled sentiments of this holy season.
It's almost impossible to escape the chaos to find some peace with the craze of materialism enveloping us. However, we can decide to stay away from the commercialism and materialism as best as we can and use this holy season wisely and prayerfully. Time can be put aside each day for essential personal prayer and family prayer, seeking a bit of stillness in which to retreat to the heart for reflection.
The Catechism tells us, "When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: 'He must increase, but I must decrease'" (CCC no. 524 and John 3:30).
Parents should make use of the Advent wreath tradition within their own homes — their domestic Churches. Each evening at the family dinner table... (my article is continued here at Catholic Exchange.)