December 9, 2018

Advent: Ever Ancient, Ever New

 I know that people will do what works for them, but what works for me is to have times of feast and fasts, flurries of bustling followed by blank spaces. After the abundance of autumn, with its pumpkins and leaves and groaning dinner tables, I like a good pause. Time to pack away the decorations, wipe up the dust, sweep away the crumbles. It's not even that I prefer or just like it this way: I need it this way. There is a sort of inaudible silence created in our home. There is nothing - no decoration or themed book stack - to communicate to me about what I should be focusing on. There is just room to sit, breathe, rest. 

Our assistant pastor said that the Church gives us liturgical seasons because change is good for us - we cannot get stuck in our ways, we must shake the dust off and switch gears. And he is right, but in my heart I also know that the liturgical seasons are change for people who don't like change. (me) There is a wonderful, circular rhythm instead. Fast, feast, pause, fast, feast, pause. Those pauses - those ordinary times - are ripe  with the opportunity to grow deep in the silence. And so it continues:

Ever ancient, ever new.

In the final days of this past November I clung to the last days of Ordinary Time and distanced myself from the barrage of Christmas-before-Advent. I know indulging that way is a balm for many weary souls and exhausted hearts, but it just wore me out and made me miserable. 

I know, too, that my kids would have loved to jump right in with everyone else, but instead, in our home, we slowly let Advent emerge. Stockings, Jesse Tree, empty nativities, and the Advent wreath on the First Sunday. Then eventually lights. And then the Christmas tree with all its trimmings. And no rush on reading the books or watching the movies - there's plenty of time to get them all in. 

I long for snow days and blizzards, for fires and cocoa and snuggling after sledding and de-bundling.
I crave silence, mitigated by carols and family movie nights. 
I bake, kneading the dough and reflecting on the millions of women who have kneaded dough before me, regardless of time or place or financial means. 

Ever ancient, ever new. 

I hope and pray that my kids will look back on their childhoods and appreciate the way that Travis and I have brought the liturgical year into our home. I hope that their childhoods will be remembered as being filled with wonder, love, and joy. I hope the meaning of it all is seeping into every nook and cranny of their hearts and souls so that it is impossible for them to turn away from their Lord and faith. To do so would be to turn away from gingerbread cookies and laughing at Home Alone and Elf as much as it is turning away from the stories that make up salvation history as told through the Jesse Tree and singing O Come O Come Emmanuel before Grace at dinner. 

Advent is my favorite of all the liturgical seasons. It is a time that acknowledges how weary I am, that I am laying in sin and error, pining for the coming of my Savior. It is a time that reminds me to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord. It is a time that allows for the tension of all those things, while encouraging me to sit under a blanket and read to my kids, forgoing my chores for a little while to focus on what matters more. What matters most. What - Who - has always mattered most. 

Ever ancient, ever new.

The Mary Consoles Eve print is from the sisters at Our Lady of the Mississippi Monastery and can be purchased here


  1. I was just thinking yesterday that I don’t fully understand advent and what is being asked of me in preparation of the lord. I have been moving towards the action of slowly working our way into Christmas and all of its festivities, but other than that, I know I am not preparing myself properly. There is more to be done than slowing down, and this is such a help in understanding what to do. I also have been really appreciating the German Christmas preparations, they ease into the holiday with St. Nicholas day and advent of course, we have a lot of our traditions to thank them for. Advent is a season of fasting. The tree is trimmed on Christmas Eve, which is when the presents are exchanged. Also, the presents are brought by a Christmas angel that looks like the Christ child, not Santa Claus! Then everyone attends midnight services. Christmas Day is a day to feast and is continued all the days of Christmas until the wise men come. Lots of blessings too, and the wreath the tree. And caroling!

  2. A lovely reflection Bonnie! I’ve felt called this Advent to really slow it down a lot. Or at least try too!

  3. This is just beautiful, Bonnie! I love your writing.

  4. I echo the others that this is beautiful, Bonnie. Really food for thought. I never know either how best to prepare for Christmas during Advent. Every year I want to do better and I never do. I'd like to teach my grandkids more about Advent since I, unfortunately, didn't raise my daughter Catholic as I am a revert. I'm saving this post. :)