Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prepare ye the way of the Lord

It's the Christmas season, apparently, and we are all being encouraged to spend money and buy lots of stuff. Christmas is coming, and we wouldn't want to be caught without our appetites fully satisfied. Eat! Drink! Spend!

This attitude occasionally produces real casualties, as in the case of the poor worker trampled to death during a Black Friday sale, all so that shoppers could get flat-screen HDTVs. But it always produces spiritual casualties, people who focus so much on the coming of goodies that they are unprepared for the coming of Christ.

In the ancient tradition of the Church, usually forgotten, Advent is a penitential season. We are _not_ supposed to act as we do, going from festival to festival and spending our money on presents. We are supposed to prepare for the coming of Jesus by prayer and fasting. Now, I know that Catholics are only required to fast on two days, but I don't really care what the minimums are. Are you a minimum Christian? You don't have to be. Strive to do what the Church has always recommended, that we make straight the way of the Lord.

In my Church, we are recommended to fast from the feast of St. Phillip onward, which I keep variously depending on the year. It is another Lent, a preparation for the coming of Christ. Christmas Eve is, for us, a day of strict fast and abstinence, like Good Friday. The party doesn't really begin until after Christmas, and then continues for twelve days until the feast of Theophany (Epiphany in the West). To celebrate before the event is to have it backwards. Spend the time getting ready to gain spiritual benefits from the holiday, and then rejoice in those benefits after.

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