Come Quickly Lord Jesus, The Whole World is Waiting for Love!
This is a guest post from my wife, Jennifer Dees. She is the Assistant Director of the Notre Dame Magnifiat Schools and a master teacher.
I love being Catholic for many reasons but one of the things I love the most is the way that the Church helps us understand complicated mysteries by making them tangible. There are so many times when we are able to encounter God by using our human senses – the colors of the liturgical year, the interaction of the mass, the smell of incense, the taste of bread and wine, holding a rosary in your hands, offering a sign of peace, singing a hymn, the list goes on and on. It humbles me that something so divine can be present to us in such a human way. This reality reminds me that we truly are God’s children, simple and curious, and that a patient, loving Father is teaching us to know Him more deeply each day.
The season of Advent is no exception. It is filled with tangible ways for us to encounter God and prepare ourselves for the coming of his holy Son, Jesus. Here are four Catholic traditions that help us prepare for the blessed event of Christmas.
Advent wreathes are filled with beautiful symbolism. The wreath is made of evergreens. Their rich aroma and deep green color signifying eternal life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God’s love and the everlasting life found in Christ. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The light from the candles reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparation that take place during Advent. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent and are closer to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of Jesus’ second coming to judge the living and the dead.
Each year my students and I would construct an Advent wreath and bless it. Then each morning we would light a candle and pray a prayer of preparation. An Advent blessings and daily prayers can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/advent/prayers.shtml
Advent calendars help us to see the number of days left until Christmas. They are a beautiful way to build anticipation and excitement for Jesus’ birth. Today calendars take all forms. When I was teaching my student each had a calendar with a picture on each day. Each day they would color a new picture on their Advent calendar while I read the daily reflection. It was a simple activity but my students looked forward to it every day.
The USCCB provides an interactive calendar on their website, complete with daily reflections – http://www.usccb.org/advent/index.shtml
Nativities make the story of Jesus’ birth come to life. Children are able to touch the figurines and recreate the story, making it come to life. I always had a nativity (or two) set up in my classroom for children to play with then they had free time.
The USCCB has a beautiful blessing for a nativity – http://www.usccb.org/advent/prayers.shtml
The Jesse tree tells the story of Jesus’ ancestry. It was a great way for my students to connect the Old and New Testament; and having each individual/story represented by one symbol made things easy to remember for my visual learners. Each student would be assigned a person or story and the student would get to read that story to the class and decorate the tree with an ornament they had made that symbolized the story. It was always fun to turn on Christmas music and have an ornament decorating party.
For many other ideas and resources visit: http://www.usccb.org/advent/index.shtml