Tag Archives: penance

Meditation “Preparing for Christmas”

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our saviour.

Every nativity scene you look at always has Mary, our holy mother with her son and St Joseph, her spouse.

Now that we are in Advent, we want to prepare well for Christmas. A good way to do this is by the hand of Our Lady. After all, she too prepared for the birth of Christ. In this meditation we consider nine lessons Our Lady gives us about how to prepare for this great feast:

 

 

 

  • Avoiding sin and going to confession
  • Docility to the will of God
  • Charity with others
  • Spreading joy
  • Presence of God
  • Not complaining about hardship
  • Penance
  • Contemplation and meditation
  • Bringing Christ to others

Meditation “The joy of mortification”

We don’t usually look on self-denial or mortification as bringing us joy, but it does – both here and hereafter. In this meditation we consider:

  • Why a disciple of Jesus Christ should live self-denial
  • How mortification is essential for holiness
  • Eight benefits of mortification
  • How we can find areas for mortification in our spiritual life, in the fulfillment of our duties and in kindness towards others
  • How we can accept in a spirit of penance the crosses life brings
  • How those who live self-denial always find joy

 

Preparing for Christmas with Our Lady

Now that we are in Advent, we want to prepare well for Christmas. A good way to do this is by the hand of Our Lady. After all, she too prepared for the birth of Christ. In this meditation we consider nine lessons Our Lady gives us about how to prepare for this great feast:

  • Avoiding sin and going to confession
  • Docility to the will of God
  • Charity with others
  • Spreading joy
  • Presence of God
  • Not complaining about hardship
  • Penance
  • Contemplation and meditation
  • Bringing Christ to others

The spirit of Advent

A fundamental aspect of the hope and expectation with which we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth in history and his second coming at the end of time is the spirit of penance. This is an aspect which is often overlooked. I recently answered a question on it in Catholic newspapers and here it is.

I know that Advent is a season of hope and expectation of the coming of Christ in history and at the end of time, but is it also a season of penance? We don’t hear much about this aspect, if indeed Advent is supposed to be a time of penance.

I agree that we don’t hear much about the penitential aspect of Advent, but we can be sure that it is still there in the mind of the Church.

This is seen most obviously in the colour purple, which is used for the vestments worn by the priest and for other decorations of the church. This colour is used in the two penitential seasons preceding the great feasts of the year: Lent preceding Easter and Advent preceding Christmas. On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete, or Rejoice, Sunday, the colour may be rose, suggesting a lessening of the penitential aspect as we pass the halfway point in our Advent discipline.

Moreover, the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2002) says that Advent is a time of “conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers, quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 3:2; n. 96).

Indeed, it has been traditional in the Church since the beginning to have days or seasons of penance as a way of preparing for the big feasts. The history of Advent bears this out. In the fifth century Pope St Leo the Great called for fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In 581 the Synod of Mac in present-day France called for fasting on the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from November 11, the feast of St Martin of Tours, up to and including Christmas Eve, December 24.
When it was first celebrated, Advent began six Sundays before Christmas. The number was reduced to four by Pope St Gregory the Great (591-604). Some Eastern Rite Catholic Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches still celebrate a longer Advent, beginning on November 15, the day after they celebrate the feast of the Apostle Philip. Thus for them Advent, like Lent, has forty days and is sometimes referred to as the Little Lent. It is lived as a penitential season, known as the Nativity Fast or sometimes St Philip’s Fast, although the penance required is not as strict as that for Lent. In the Melkite Catholic Church the fast now begins on 10 December.

During this season the strict Eastern tradition requires abstinence from all creatures with a backbone, including mammals, birds and fish, and from all products made from these creatures, including milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs. In some traditions only one meal is allowed each day and this cannot be eaten before noon.

So it is clear that Advent is traditionally a penitential season like Lent. It is understandable that this should be the case. If we are to pray “Come, Lord Jesus”, as the liturgy invites us to do, we should make our soul more worthy to receive him. Like the Prodigal Son, we come before God in humility saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Lk 15:21). This sense of unworthiness, which we rightly feel, leads to the desire to purify our soul from sin and the effects of sin by acts of penance. It is as if we are cleaning out the stable of our soul so that Our Lord can find it a more worthy dwelling place on Christmas Day when he comes. To this end it can be helpful to choose one or more of our usual Lenten penances to live during Advent. In this way we are reminded that we must deny ourselves in order to prepare well for Christmas.

In addition to acts of self-denial, it is good to make a greater effort in our spiritual life too through such acts as attending Mass more often, setting aside regular times for prayer, reading the Scriptures or some book about Advent or Christmas, etc. And of course we should practise more acts of charity and almsgiving, which are so much a part of the spirit of Christmas.

Also important in living this spirit of repentance is receiving the sacrament of Penance, the great sacrament of mercy and joy by which we are forgiven our sins by God. There can hardly be a “Happy Christmas” without being in the state of grace and being embraced by the Father.

Meditation on the souls in Purgatory

The souls in Purgatory are sometimes called “the forgotten souls”. In this meditation we pray about how we can help them and how they help us. We will consider:

  • The Church’s teaching on Purgatory
  • Why there is a Purgatory
  • How Purgatory is a manifestation of God’s sanctity, justice and mercy
  • The two principal pains of Purgatory
  • The happiness of the souls in Purgatory
  • Apparitions on earth of souls in Purgatory
  • How we can help the holy souls
  • How the holy souls can help us
  • What we can do to avoid or at least shorten our Purgatory

Meditation on formation for evangelisation

Recent Popes have been calling on the Church to carry out the new evangelisation – the passing on of the love and truth of Jesus Christ to the world. But in order to share our faith with others we must first know it and put it into practice. In this meditation we consider how we can come to know our faith better and live it out, so that we can communicate it more effectively to others. Among the points we consider are:

  • Christ spent time forming the apostles
  • We too need formation to carry out our mission of spreading the Gospel
  • Much depends on this formation: our own sanctification and happiness, and our ability to help others
  • This formation involves the spiritual, doctrinal, human and apostolic aspects
  • We can acquire this formation in a variety of ways, e.g., reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other books, attending talks, frequenting the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance, prayer, including the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and more…

Meditation on living Lent well

Lent for some is a season of sombre self-denial to which they do not look forward. In this meditation we consider how Lent can be a time of real renewal and spiritual joy, looking at various ways we can live the three aspects of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so as to derive the maximum benefit from this fruitful time.