Category Archives: Advent

It Is Not for Ourselves

It is very important to remember during these few days before Christmas that we never receive any grace for ourselves alone but for the building up of the entire Mystical Body. How wonderful is our vocation as Christians! How glorious is our heritage! In spite of weakness, of all our defects and faults, we are chosen to rekindle charity and set it aflame, to let it shine brighter, that redemption be more effective for the whole Body of Christ.

Since the mysteries of God are always living and active now, a real birth of the Word will occur in our souls. The Author of grace will come to reign within us more profoundly, more fully, and consequently, He will reach others effectively through us. The service God asks of us is simply to exhale the fragrant odor of Christ who lives in us, to radiate the eternal light, and to spread the fire enkindled in our hearts. In other words, to be transparent, to be in the translucent appearance of our Lord who lives in us.

It is not for ourselves that we live but for all, for those who sit in the shadow of death so that they may be converted and live. We also live for those who are already saints so that their sanctity may increase still more.

Mother Marie des Douleurs, O.S.B.

A Prayer to Prepare the Heart

O almighty, omnipotent, eternal God, what greater proof of love could You give Your poor creatures than the gift of Your Word, Your only-begotten Son? For our sake, You clothed with human flesh, like the flesh of sin, Him who is eternal splendor, the perfect image of Your substance!

“God of goodness, who art above all goodness, You alone art sovereign good! You gave us the Word, Your only Son, to live with us, to assume our evil, corrupt nature. Why did You make us such a gift? Out of love, because You loved us even before we existed.

“O eternal Greatness, O fathomless Bounty, You lowered Yourself to ennoble mankind! Wherever I turn, I can see nothing but the abyss and fire of Your charity” (St. Catherine of Siena).

“Whenever I think of Christ, I should remember … how great is Your love, O Father, which in Jesus has given us a pledge of such great tenderness; for love begets love and although I am only a beginner and very wicked, I shall strive ever to bear this in mind and awaken my own love. Once You, O Father, do me the favor of implanting this love in my heart, everything will become easy for me and I shall get things done in a very short time and with very little labor. O my God, give me this love, since You know how much I need it, for the sake of the love You bore us and through Your glorious Son who revealed it to us, at such great cost to Himself” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 22).

Love will fill the valleys in my heart, and humility will level its mountains and hills. Destroy my pride, arrogance, and vanity, O Lord, by the powerful fire of Your love. By the might of Your all-powerful arm, tear out of my heart every fiber which is infected with the poison of self-love, and which, therefore, does not belong to You. O Lord, I, too, wish to decrease, decrease that You may increase in me, so that on Christmas Day You may find my heart entirely empty and free and therefore ready for the total invasion of Your love.

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene

Our Longing Our Design

Historians have noted a common longing found among all peoples. It is in our design to reach beyond what we have, beyond what we are, beyond our time, beyond ourselves.  The danger of this longing is that if we are not aware of its presence, its source, its end, and its proper means, the devil himself will propose an attractive means of satisfaction.

Loneliness, craving for resolution, that gnawing desire that ebbs and flows in your heart is part of God’s design. It is His presence within us – drawing us to Him as a lover draws the beloved. If we are not awake and engaged with God, the enemy will lure us to satisfy this longing with the flesh, with relationships, with things, with activities, with food, with possessions, with all manner of inebriation and false remedy.

If we are truly awake, our state of alertness orients our souls to be drawn to the only thing that will truly satisfy – we are drawn to God – to prayer – to worship – to silence.

The challenge with this proper response is that it only partially mitigates the suffering of the not yet fully satisfied hunger. It only slightly mitigates the emptiness because now, though we see Him and can know Him, we only see through a glass dimly. Though the contemplative path clears the glass to a degree, our vision will only be perfect when we see Him face to face.

St. Luke provides a light to this partial darkness of unfulfilled longing and is a perfect precursor to Advent.

“But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:34-36

A simple reflection reveals powerful prescriptions that can light our path until His return:

–       Guard your hearts from being weighed down

o   By the wasting of time – on occupations of time, attention, and energy that don’t advance our love for God or those He has placed in our care.

o   By inebriation – by seeking a false remedy for our longing through worldly means that will only serve to dull our hearing the voice of God.

o   By the cares of this life – all the normal and often good things that can easily become idols if we let them.

–       The Lord is coming and we must be ready and awake

–       We must fight to remain awake and watch with vigilance

–       We must never cease in our prayer

–       We must pray that we have the strength to persevere

Guard your hearts brothers and sisters. Allow the longing to draw you to the only thing that will satisfy. The Lord is coming.

Be assured of my daily prayers and fasting for you as you enter into the season of longing.

Unum est Necessarium

Dan

Advent on the Way

Much Beloved Friends,

During my brief stay in Costa Rica this week I spotted my first fully decorated Christmas tree of the year! As well, not long ago the secular world began to “sell” the holidays.

Rather than allowing time along with the world to mercilessly thrust us into this season, how can we better prepare for Advent this year? How can we deepen our union with God and avoid allowing the world to stir up anxiety and distraction when we should be increasing our devotion to God?

Advent should be a time of entering into the themes of anticipation, joy and hope and allowing them to permeate our days leading up to the birth of our Savior and then lingering with Him into the New Year.

Here is a five step framework that can help us better assess our current spiritual trajectory and how we might adjust in a way in keeping with the wisdom of the Church.

The first step is to look back: How was your Advent last year? Did it catch you by surprise? Were you ready? If not and you can remember well enough, take a minute and write down the reasons why you feel Advent was far less fruitful than it should have been last year. Take a moment to ask the Lord to reveal the circumstances, the decisions you made, and maybe a glimpse into a better way.

The second step is to consider where we are now: Is drawing near to God this Advent on the top of your priority list? Is it really? What evidence is there besides your good desire? Have you already determined your path to a more complete “yes” to God in this season? If so, specifically how? What penitential practices will you pursue? What needs to be cleansed in your soul to properly prepare for the coming King? What patterns of sin or selfishness need to be broken? What commitments have you made regarding liturgical or sacramental participation? How can and will you love God and others more completely this year? What spiritual reading have you purchased and set aside? Are you, are we, really ready?

The third step is to consider how our participation in Apostoli Viae might help us in our desire to draw near to God: Many of you have a very high interest in the AV path. One helpful approach might be to review this post and maybe adopt an element that you have yet to incorporate into your life: What is Required to Associate with Apostoli Viae Beyond the Sojourner Phase?

Whatever you decide to do, one secret of spiritual progress is that of taking baby steps. After you have asked all of these questions of yourself you might begin to feel badly about your present spiritual progress or past decisions and over-react by taking on too much. This is not His will. Instead we should simply observe the less than optimal reality from a detached state and prayerfully discern what makes sense moving forward. If you discover something you need to take to confession, do so without self-condemnation. Participation in the sacrament of penance this way will give you strength to avoid the same mistakes this year.

The fourth step is to write down exactly what you want to change and how you will change it (by God’s grace): As many of you have read or are reading “Into the Deep” you might use the AV approach to a solemn commitment in a similar way regarding Advent. You can take this plan before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and make a solemn commitment to the approach He is revealing to you.

If I may suggest a priority of elements to consider, here is my own approach based upon the simple priorities provided by the endless depths of our beautiful tradition:

1.     Sacramental participation – how will I draw near to Him in a unique way this year?

2.     Prayer – how will I adjust my daily prayer to better orient my heart to Him this year?

3.     Ascesis – how will I better clean and prepare my heart through ascetical practices which may include specific acts of prayer, reflection through spiritual reading and sacramental participation that might be challenging but very beneficial? How can I better serve others in this time?

It is God’s desire to pour out His graces upon you during this holy season. Open up your heart to Him and further embrace the narrow way. You will find Him there and He will lead you ever deeper into His Advent in time and eternity.

Don’t forget… baby steps.

The fifth step is to be prepared for opposition and to remember Rules #5 and #6 of St. Ignatius first rules for discernment: Never make a change to your resolutions when in desolation and redouble your commitments tempted to abandon or reduce them.

Finally, if you have already made specific plans or have any good ideas, please share them with the group!

Be assured of my prayers.

Unum est Necessarium

Dan