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Editorial: Six ways to grow closer to Christ this Advent

Advent is a season of joyful expectation before Christmas. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS photo/Lisa A. Johnston, St. Louis Review)

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The season of Advent exists to slow us down, to give us the opportunity to prepare to receive Christ on Christmas Day and to celebrate his coming well into January. To this end, we offer the following six suggestions as potential ways to help each of us grow more deeply in relationship with Christ this Advent.

In last week’s Editorial, we asked the question: Are we all-in with Christ, or are we just cohabitating? Are we fully committed to growing in a relationship with Jesus Christ, or do we have one foot out the door?

Realistically, the answer for most of us is probably somewhere in between. There is always room to improve in our relationship with Christ, and we know that the Lord is always calling us closer to him, desiring our hearts — desiring all of us. But challenges always present themselves.

As we begin the Advent season, we have before us an opportunity for a spiritual reset of sorts. As we anticipate his birth, we have 24 days to invest in our relationship with the Lord. This won’t be easy. The lure of the world, especially at this time of the year, will be great. The culture tells us that Christmas is about buying, receiving and returning. As anything other than a time to go shopping, Advent doesn’t exist, and Christmas is over as soon as the clock ticks into Boxing Day.

The Church, of course, knows better. The season of Advent exists to slow us down, to give us the opportunity to prepare to receive Christ on Christmas Day and to celebrate his coming well into January. To this end, we offer the following six suggestions as potential ways to help each of us grow more deeply in relationship with Christ this Advent. They may be done individually, but they also can be opportunities for invitation — ways to encourage others to make the most of the Advent season.

Go to Confession.

The season of Advent, by its nature, is a penitential one. Part of preparing our hearts to welcome the Lord means acknowledging our own faults and sins and confessing them. Often parishes will have penance services during Advent, but if not, check the bulletin for regularly scheduled opportunities or make an appointment with a priest at your parish.

Dedicate yourself to Lectio Divina.

As Susan Erchen outlines in this week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12), lectio divina is a way to listen for God’s voice through Scripture. First, slowly read a passage from Scripture, meditate on it, pray about it, contemplate where the Lord may be calling you, and, finally, take action based on where God is leading you. Specific reflections pertaining to the four Sundays of Advent can be found within the article.

Pray the St. Andrew Novena.

This beautiful Christmas novena traditionally is prayed 15 times a day from Nov. 30 (the feast of St. Andrew) through Dec. 24 and can be directed toward a specific special intention. “Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, (here mention your request), through the merits of our savior Jesus Christ, and of his blessed Mother. Amen.”

Attend Daily Mass.

There is perhaps no better way to prepare for Christmas than by attending the daily celebration of the Eucharist. Make a point — even if it means getting up early or taking a break out of the workday — to increase your joyful expectation of the birth of Jesus by spending more time with him in the context of the liturgy.

Invite others to attend Christmas Day Mass and a celebratory dinner.

Many of us know those who have fallen away from the Faith — who perhaps never attend Mass even on Christmas or Easter. Consider taking a moment to invite someone who is no longer affiliated with the Church back to Mass on Christmas Day. And, because it is a day of celebration, extend the invitation to Christmas dinner.

Seek the assistance of the Blessed Mother.

In his Angelus address on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010, Pope Benedict said: “There is a mysterious correspondence between the waiting of God and that of Mary, the creature ‘full of grace,’ totally transparent to the loving plan of the Most High. Let us learn from her, the Woman of Advent, how to live our daily actions with a new spirit, with the feeling of profound expectation that only the coming of God can fulfill.”

Wishing you a Blessed Advent season.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

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