I could not help being touched by Bobby Hillis’s recent piece outlining his faith journey. What struck me the most about his writing was the way he presented the events which have shaped his spirituality on a continuum. While there are special events which represent the milestones, will still pass them; continuing the journey.
As Advent arrives, we now have a beautiful time to start a new beginning in our own journey. Preparing for the arrival of the birth of Jesus. Today we automatically make the connection with the birth of Jesus and the Holy Family in the beautiful Nativity scene. This tradition was brought to us by St. Francis of Assisi, who obtained permission from the pope to present the “nativity scene” for the first time in 1223. St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi tells the story the best:
“It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”
This tradition is brought forward in our own parish for many years with the Welcome the Child program, and of course a whole litany of beautiful liturgical preparations as the Advent Season begins.
So where will Advent be on your journey this year? Is your spiritual life ready for a recharge of the batteries? Perhaps you might do something “special” for yourself during this time. An Advent devotion, trying a new prayer group such as Centering Prayer just started in the parish; maybe a new ministry from the many wonderful ones to chose from here and around in the world. Maybe you try and carve out some time for just you and God, Daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, or even an online devotion such as sacredspace.ie with their Gospel and Advent retreat you can download to your cell phone.
The time of giving is coming, but it is also a time of receiving. We need the additional spiritual nourishment to prepare ourselves for His arrival. Give yourself the gift of time with God, and hold Him close to you.
Then you can be truly the face of Joy to the World, as Christians rejoice on his birthday.
THE BLUE TREES
The Blue Trees soak up the early evening light, and remain awakened.
As Christian’s prepare to walk down the path towards the celebration once again.