Advent feels different this year. I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m not feeling quite like Jenny is this year, but still, there’s a lot of peace in knowing things will be different.
So we all know I’m fasting from facebook. (That’s actually going really well.) But what else are we doing?
The Advent Family Gathering
Last weekend our parish hosted it’s first (technically second but that’s a story for another time) Advent Family Gathering. When our Director of Faith Formation asked for volunteers, I raised my hand via email and offered to take on the Jesse Tree because it’s a tradition I think is worthwhile but we’ve never done here. In fact, I remember the one time my mom did it with us as kids very fondly.
The plan originally was that Jeff would take the kids around while I did my station, however, Jeff ended up sick last weekend so he and Shelby stayed home. I brought the boys and there they learned about St Nicholas (a tradition we already do), St Lucy (which for shame we do not do especially since my Italian grandmother’s maiden name is Santa Lucia), the Advent wreath and of course, the Jesse Tree. Here are a few pics:
If you look closely, you may see some of Tracy from A Smith Slice of Life‘s cupcakes. She was gracious enough to allow the boys to tag along with their group.
The boys loved the gathering and are still so excited for Advent. They have shared with their dad and their grandparents all they have learned. After the gathering, I felt much more ready for the coming season.
The Advent Wreath Drama
We’ve done a variety of different “wreathes” in the past; including this crafty one for non-crafty moms. This year I was determined to at least have legit candles. Did that turn out to be the task. I got up early Saturday morning to go to Wal-Mart to find out they carried no pink or purple candles (aside from the jarred scented ones), no taper candles AT ALL, and no candlesticks. I tucked my tail between my legs and headed over to a mixed-use shopping area called “Mayfaire” and prayed for the best. I knew there was, or at least used to be, a Hallmark there. I went first to Williams-Sonoma to browse for Jeff’s Christmas while I waited for Hallmark to open. I did find a set of three oxo vegetable peelers and since ours is missing (she said upon finding no peeler for the squash Thanksgiving morning) that I bought because a good brand at a good price is hard to find…especially at a place like that. I then headed to Pier 1 Imports in search mostly of candlesticks. No. Nothing. 😦 I headed to Hallmark which I remember from childhood having a wide selection of candles. Low and behold while lacking candle sticks, they had an actual packaged set of Advent tapers…I was ecstatic. I grabbed a single white taper too just in case… Then I headed to my car thinking “Who might have candlesticks or maybe even a legit wreath?” I thought about the variety of stores on my way home with “dollar” in their name and then looked up. I was parked in front of Belk which was open and also not busy. I went in and wandered their housewares department. I was about to give up when lo and behold, there were two boxes of crystal candlesticks (two to a box). At $20 a box, they weren’t cheap, but I figured they were re-usable so well worth the money. I headed to check-out and imagine my surprise when the sales lady told me it was $14.98 for both of them including sales tax. If there is a patron saint of Advent wreathes or last minute shoppers, he or she was looking out for me! I came home to discover one out of the four candlesticks was broken but in an easily repairable way and my husband is “he-who-always-has-high-powered-glues-on-hand,” so a little glue and we were good to go. That white taper is in my junk drawer but Joseph said we should get a pillar candle for our Christ candle anyway. And there’s no greenery but we have a small table and that could become a nightmare of epic proportions, but this is what we ended up with:
We blessed it Saturday night and were off to the races.
What I’m listening to…
So we always hear, “don’t listen to Christmas music so early!” But then what to listen to to get you into the spirit of the Advent season? I’m not a total “nothing before Christmas Eve” purist, but I like to try and make it at least until the 3rd week of Advent before cranking up the tunes. A few years ago, several people on twitter and Daria Sockey recommended Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.
I have listened to it over the past few years but this year thought, there has to be another Advent album out there because while I love Gregorian chant and the beautiful nuns singing it, I wanted more. Guys, the Holy Spirit came through for me because I have not just one but two new Advent albums!
The first I found just by searching “Advent” in the iTunes store. Advent Promise–Songs and Music for the Season of Advent is more than just a lot of Christmas Carols and O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is various choirs and scholas recorded in England singing Advent hymns such as On Jordan’s Banks, O Come Divine Messiah, Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming and yes, O Come, O Come Emmanuel as well as a gorgeous version of the O Wisdom Antiphon and Magnificat. There are a few “carols” included like the Carol of the Bells, an instrumental Deck the Halls (which is kind of Advent-y in in it’s theme of preparation) and Joy to the World. But definitely beautiful and reverent.
Then I was perusing feedly and found that Daria Sockey had a new recommendation this year of O Emmanuel. Click over and read her praises for it and enter a contest to win a copy! (I bought mine at iTunes.) Here’s a sneak peak:
O Emmanuel is a Cantata (for lack of a better word) of sorts, a collection of instrumentally accompanied choral pieces with texts based on Sacred Scripture. Each band on the album is a choral setting for one of the O Antiphons. Most readers of this blog know exactly what that means. For any newcomers who do not, the O Antiphons are prayed each night at vespers from December 17th thru 23rd, as an opening to the Magnificat of Our Lady. Each O Antiphon describes a scriptural title of the longed-for Messiah. (Every Catholic has some familiarity with them, since a paraphrase of these antiphons also make up the verses of the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.)
Anyhow, these setting combine old and new musical themes and styles. Each one is given its ancient Latin title (O Sapienta, O Adonai, O Radix, O Clavis, etc.) and sometimes the Latin text is used. But so many styles of music are used (and even combined within a piece) that the listener will be continually surprised. There’s Gregorian chant, classical, jazz, a dash of modern dissonance, African American spiritual, and more.
You will not be disappointed.
I am, in fact, quite satisfied with my Advent listening!
What am I reading…
Will they all get finished? Absolutely not! I’ve already read Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth Infancy Narratives, that is the only one I want to finish for sure. I am starting William Barclay’s study of The Gospel of Matthew which my mom read waaaaay back in the day to get the Liturgical Year off to a roaring start. I’ve had Rediscover Jesus for an entire year…time to get it at least started. The Joy of the Gospel and Made for More I’m hoping to get at least started in my spare time ;).
What’s going on with Spiritual Growth?
Pictured here are my Breviary, Volume 1, 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration and Henri Nouwen’s In Joyful Hope Advent Meditations.
I’m re-comitting to the Divine Office getting in as many hours each day as possible which will typically be six out of seven on weekdays (I work during Mid-Afternoon prayer, no way around it) and all seven on weekends.
I am also re-consecrating myself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and enjoying Henri Nouwen’s short but excellent daily meditiations.
Not pictured is the Pray More Novenas retreat which consists of talks you can watch, just listen to and/or read the transcript of at your own pace. Each talk also has a study guide to help you get the most out of it. Visit the link and sign up today!
We will celebrate St Nicholas’ Day this Advent too and we will attend Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And we’ll start our Jesse Tree this week. Aside from that, we will be pretty low-key. Could it all crash and burn? Sure. I hope not but it’s always a possibility. Here’s to hoping we get it kind-of right this Advent. And prayers and blessings for your Advent as well.