Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Preparing Our Hearts for Christ

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:

You would have to live in a cave to not know that Christmas is coming. The day after Thanksgiving, almost everyone is preparing. Shopping for presents, putting up trees, sending cards, making cookies, and hosting parties. In some churches and Christian homes the Advent Wreath will come out, maybe a Jesse Tree, and the Christmas trees and ornaments may be added weekly to slowly emphasize the Light of Christ coming into the world. The Season of Advent is a time of busy preparation and one that even the secular world will not let us forget.
So much of the love for Christmas has to do with family, giving, beauty and the longing for joy and peace in the world. These are all good things and I believe the desire to start celebrating Christmas earlier than we should has to do with people’s lives lacking these simple things at other times of the year. People desire the love and goodness that so many enjoy at Christmas time.
The problem with all of this merry making and festivity is that it’s happening at the wrong time. Advent is indeed a time of preparation but even more important than getting our shopping list checked off and planning the perfect meal is how we have prepared our souls, how we have prepared our hearts to receive the baby Jesus as our King on Christmas Day.
We must remember that as Christians we do not celebrate Advent or Christmas out of sentiment over the Lord’s birth. The reality is this: just as we are truly present in heaven at Divine Liturgy (Mass) we are also truly present at the feasts we celebrate. God of course is outside of time and it is His life that we are sharing in when we participate in the sacraments and the liturgical calendar of the Church. Participation in His life means we are mystically present at the birth of the Messiah. Advent is meant to place us in the time before He was born. The entire Old Testament is a story of preparation. God was preparing His chosen people to give to the world first, Mary—the summit of the Jewish people, and then the fruit of her womb—Jesus Christ.
So how can we prepare our hearts and lives to receive the baby born in the lowly manger on Christmas Day? The best way to do this is the same way Christians have been preparing for major feasts for centuries: through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
“Man has a noble task: That of prayer and love. To pray and love, that is the happiness of man on earth.”  
- St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney
Prayer changes us. Prayer makes way for the Lord to come into our hearts and draw us closer to Him. St. Paul told us to, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18) Now is a perfect time to work harder at heeding these words. The beauty of the liturgical calendar is that it allows us to experience salvation history and our Lord’s life over and over again. We are invited each year to grow deeper in our relationship with God. Prayer is key to this growth.

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