There are two seasons of preparation in the Church calendar: Lent and Advent. During Lent we prepare for the Passion, death, and Resurrection of the Lord by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the Mass we cover the statues, remove Holy Water from the fonts, stop singing the Gloria and stop saying Alleluia. At home we fast by giving things up, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We also give alms by doing extra good works and setting money aside for the poor. During Advent we’re supposed to be preparing for the birth of the Lord, but what do we actually do to prepare? We wear purple at Mass and we shop for Christmas presents. Aside from that? Not much. I encourage you to spiritually prepare for the birth of the Lord through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
What prayers can help us prepare for the Nativity? First, pray the O Antiphons. These are antiphons that are used in Mass from December 17 to Christmas that give different titles of Jesus Christ. We can meditate on these antiphons and ask ourselves who Christ is in our lives. You can also take time to read the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels. They can be found in Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2, and John 1:1-28. Another good thing would be to participate in our 40 Hours Devotion, which is 40 hours (really 43) of continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After all, what better way is there to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh than to spend time in the presence of the Most Holy Body of the Lord?
We aren’t officially required to fast during the season of Lent now, but traditionally there were several days of fasting on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the feast of St. Lucy of Syracuse on December 13. They were called Ember Days, and this year they would fall on December 16, 18, and 19. Fridays are also special days of fasting and abstinence in memory of the death of our Lord on a Friday. We sacrifice things on those days to unite ourselves to the Cross of our Lord and to teach ourselves to prefer God to all things. We may not be going to as many parties as normal this year, so we have an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ by sacrificing something on Fridays and Ember Days of Advent.
Finally, prayer and fasting are useless if they don’t lead to a growth in charity. There are so many opportunities to give during the Christmas season, and we should take advantage of them. You can give at OLOL either through the Angel Tree or by giving directly to the St. Anthony Boxes in Church, or you can give through any of the many good charities out there. Don’t just give money, though; make a point to do good things for the people around you during this time, especially when they won’t know about it. As the Lord said, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving may be in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you” (Mt 6:3-4).
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.