Making the most of the Advent Season is a challenge in our fast-paced world. Amid the distractions, much of the richness and spiritual joy can be thrown by the wayside, or sadly, lost completely. All is not futile, though and there is still time to make wonderful preparation for the coming Christmas season.
A Spirit of Joy
Advent Week 3 ushers in a spirit of joy mingled with an attitude of penance. For those who have embraced the Advent Calendar activity, this week the candle lit changes from the purple to rose, signaling the imminent birth of the long awaited Messiah. The Scripture readings for Gaudete Sunday exhort us to "rejoice, always" for "our redemption is at hand."
In this octave before Christmas we can focus on the beautiful way in which Christ fills the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Golden Nights, also called The O Antiphons are readings taken from Isiais and Micah, Messianic prophets of the Old Testament. These Antiphons address very directly the titles by which Jesus is called. Beginning December 17 and continuing to December 23, we learn that Christ is "Wisdom, the Lord of Israel, the Root of Jesse, the Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of all Nations, and finally Emmanuel - God with us." An easy and clear description and prayers for each of these titles can be found here.
An interesting side note to The O Antiphons is that in Latin, each of these titles, when written and formed into an acrostic, form the Latin phrase Era Cras, or "Tomorrow I come."
Mingled with Penance
As much as we feel the building hope in anticipation of Christ's birth, there is still a call to "make straight His path" to our hearts. Ember Days in winter answer such a call. One of four cycles of Ember Days, those in Advent fall on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy on December 13 - in the middle of Advent Week 3.
On these days, we are called to fast and abstinence, not so much as penance for our sins, but in spiritual renewal, reflection on our dependence on God and thanksgiving for blessing received - especially those received in His created world and nature. A full explanation on Ember Days, with special attention to Advent, can be found by clicking to this site.
Leading us to the Stable
This year Advent Week 3 serves as our final push toward Christmas as Christmas Eve falls on what would typically be the Fourth Sunday in Advent. Let us be encouraged in these final days to set aside time away from the frenzy of last minute gifts, cards, parties, decorating and the like to prepare our hearts and minds for the True Gift we receive at Christmas.