I hate cleaning. It’s hard to look around me- kids toys, crumbled up papers, toothpaste lining sink rims. It’s nearly an impossible job. There’s never enough time, and even with the passing of time, it will never be clean enough or neat enough to warrant a house showing. But yet, I still rage against the machine, trying to get my little soldiers to prepare.
For what??? They cry. My answer is always the same, You never know for what, but you must always be prepared.
This morning on this first day of Advent, I also struggled to find an angle for my Advent preparation. God always gives me an angle, a way to prepare my heart for the coming of our King. In this way, He reveals himself to me, teaches and instructs me, and changes those things in me that may have not have been ripe enough for changing. The Catholic church’s liturgical calendar has given me structure and helped guide me to the places in prayer and scripture that I need to be. Advent has been a particularly personal blessing for me, as it reminds me of the hope I have in Him, the one who came to save me.
This morning’s scripture readings seemed to lead to God’s insisting that His Word is here to lead me, instruct me and guide me to the places that I need to be. As much as I would like for these “places” to be physical ones, another town, another place to explore, they are wholly interior. Going to Jerusalem is the core of our being, finding our holiness, being guided by scripture to change ourselves from glory to glory. The longing in my heart for the Holy City is no longer about my eyes seeing Israel, it is about my longing to see Jesus.
And these words, these thoughts led to an angle of preparation, pregnancy. God’s soft whispers filled my soul, focus on the Marian pregnancy.
But this pregnancy is not a physical one. The Marian pregnancy goes far beyond that. Yet my own personal experiences with pregnancy lend themselves to deep insight about how to await the birth of a child, and I pray that it may help you prepare for Christ’s birth this Advent.
Eating God’s Word
Eating the right things is so important in a pregnancy. Focusing on the baby’s needs as well as your own when you may be sick is difficult. This is also true in the spiritual life. What are we feeding on? Do we seek God in His word everyday or do we feed ourselves in worldly readings? What are we putting into our bodies? Some of us may be sick from the very things that are in front of our faces- television shows that we choose to watch, books that we choose to read or people that we may surround ourselves with. All of these things go into our systems and nourish us in the wrong ways. We may have to ask ourselves this Advent what are we eating? Is it good for us?
The book of Wisdom tells us this, “Desire therefore my words; long for them and you will be instructed.” (Wisdom 6:11)
Like Mary, we must fill ourselves with the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of Man. We must eat God’s words and live them in order to have a healthy pregnancy. These words provide us the spiritual nourishment we need to grow, as our walk with the Lord grows, so commit this Advent to reading your bible. You can find the church’s readings on the United States Conference of Bishops page. I also highly recommend for new bible readers and those that may be new to the Catholic church (or curious) The Word Among Us . I use their magazine daily which includes the scripture reading for the day, lots of great articles and a meditation. This is a nice consolidated way to get fed with no digging on your part, so no excuses! Feed yourself in the morning with the readings of the day, and know that millions of Christians around the world are doing the same.
Prayer also provides nourishment for the infant Jesus to arrive. Mary prayed and exalted God while she was pregnant, and the Magnifact speaks for itself:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
The beauty of the words ring true in Latin. Watch this video and let your eyes and ears feast on its magnificence. Sometimes not understanding the words helps us to listen with our hearts, and the Magnificat in Latin proves this to be true. Pause and take a listen.
It is this daily prayer and devotion to our Lord Jesus that grows our insides, when we are pregnant with our wanting and needing to be closer to Him and extolling Him. When our words are lacking, we can find a number of other ways to pray. Holy cards, music and simple devotions are prepared for our benefit, in the moments when the words escape us. The rosary is also an excellent tool to keep us focused towards God’s will and not our own. In whichever way you choose to pray, choose Him, as Mary did. She is the model disciple and provides an example of holiness that we all can follow. If you don’t know where to start, start day 1 with her words in the Magnificat. Just as she was chosen to carry the Christ child, so are we, pregnant with anticipation at the coming of our Lord.
Cleaning our spiritual houses
Pregnancy also involves nesting; preparing for the arrival of a newborn. We clean the house, set up cribs, bring in items that are necessary for the baby. We get rid of those things that don’t belong any longer and make way for the new life that is about to enter our house. So too is the spiritual cleansing and nesting of our souls. Our focus this Advent should also be on cleaning and clearing our interior houses. Looking around at those things we no longer need. These things can be physical things, but I believe strongly that these things are more spiritual in nature. This spiritual cleaning include forgiveness, mercy and repentance.
Maybe you haven’t been to confession in twenty years. You’ve held a grudge against your brother that you can’t let go of. Or maybe you have refused to extend your hand to someone because you have helped them so many times and they have failed you. Now is the time to live out the gospel. Be pregnant with forgiveness, mercy and repentance. Here are some ways you can carry the Christ child and birth a new life.
- Write a letter to the person you haven’t spoken with and forgive them. Follow Jesus’ teaching on this despite how you may feel. When we know the scripture but don’t live it, our walk with Christ in hindered. And oh ya, SEND THE LETTER!
- Go to confession. Nobody’s watching you, but God. Cleanse your soul. Whether you struggle with this sacrament or not, it’s here for your benefit. The words of absolution are freeing, and as you make that gesture to reconcile yourself to the one whom you adore, the words of the priest will free you. Maybe you don’t believe that a priest can do that… well, believe God can. My godmother once gave me a great bit of advice. Fake it till you make it. Those words have saved me on many occasions. Things I wasn’t feeling ready for, a hand I didn’t want to extend, a heart that was hurt and broken, I walked forward anyway. Listen to the words you will hear: I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Now say Amen. You know where you need to be.
- Stop being so hard on that person whose struggling. Remember you struggle too. Try encouraging rather than hindering. Hugging rather than hurting. That person in your life that is a drug addict, alcoholic, liar, thief. Whatever they are, God loves them, and so should you. God freely extended His mercy to us and expects us to do the same. This isn’t agreeing with their sin, it is loving them in spite of it. Only God’s love and mercy freed people from sin. Now is a good time to start.
I pray that this Advent, you will take the opportunity to experience Christmas from Mary’s perspective. Eating, praying and preparing for the Christ child. May God hold you and keep you during this precious time.