The season of Advent is fast approaching. Every year the anticipation builds as we get to the last weeks in Ordinary Time. Usually around weeks thirty-two or thirty-three, I can’t help but to dust off volume one of my four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours and take a peak at some of the prayers, readings, antiphons, and responsories that are slated for Advent. For good reason, the prayer of the Church shines in seasons like this. Whether it is Advent through Epiphany, or Lent through Easter, these seasons envelop us in the central mysteries of our faith and imbue us with a special grace.
If one were to pray with the Church throughout Advent by simply praying the Office of Readings every day, you would cover a good portion of Isaiah and its prophecies of a coming Messiah and the dawn of a new age for God’s people. You would also read Advent reflections by Church Fathers such as St Irenaeus, St Gregory Nazianzen, St Augustine, St Cyril of Jerusalem, and more. If you added Morning Prayer and/or Evening Prayer, the readings and responsories from the Old and New Testaments would serve as daily reminders to remain watchful and vigilant, patient and persevering in hope. Still more, if you prayed any or all of the midday hours of prayer, the antiphons would invite you to contemplate the mystery of the Annunciation and wonder at the angelic salutation addressed to the Virgin Mary. Lastly, lest we forget Night Prayer, the Church closes every day of Advent with the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater, a plea to Mary, “the loving mother of our redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea,” to assist us in our poverty and have pity on our sinfulness as we often fail to remain faithful to the One who dwelt in her womb.
Come Advent, there are many ways that Christians try to remain focused on the “reason for the season” and avoid getting caught up in the madness of the secular celebration of Christmas. Some put out an Advent wreath and gather nightly for family prayer. Others purchase daily devotionals that contain readings from Scripture, spiritual reflections, and space for journaling. Still others commit themselves to disciplines of fasting and almsgiving.
These are all good things. However, nothing can prepare us for Christmas like the Sacred Liturgy. The reason is because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together with the Liturgy of the Hours is the font of all grace. This means that when we pray with the Church, we are given direct access to the grace of Jesus Christ – in a way that is unequaled by any other prayer or devotion. In other words, it is through the Sacred Liturgy that we are able to enter into the Sacred Heart of our Lord and receive everything needed to be conformed to Him in the mysteries of his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.
As we begin preparations for the Advent season, consider praying part of the Liturgy of the Hours this year. It is in and through this prayer that Christ has joined our prayer with His. There is no other prayer that could lead us more directly to Him. He has given us the grace. We need only to open our hearts and receive His gift.
So keep lighting the Advent wreath with your family. Stay disciplined in your daily devotional. Fast regularly and give generously. But pray the prayer of the Church and you will supply all of these with a supernatural grace that can only come from the Sacred Liturgy.