Holy Mother Church is very wise. She knows us better than we know ourselves.
For this reason, she designs her year with unerring instinct.
Advent is a four-week condensation of the four thousand years mankind waited for the Redemption. It’s our time to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming, to long for it, to purify ourselves so that we’ll be ready.
It’s a penitential season, with penance done with joy. The lighting of the Advent wreath, the family praying together nightly in its presence, the weekly ritual of candle-lighting to remind us of His coming (He who is the Light of the World) — these rites are sermons in themselves.
Since on Christmas He will be a birthday Child, He must have birthday presents; and the family chooses mortifications to make beautiful gifts for Him.
The feast of St. Nicholas is December 6, the time for learning about Santa Claus. No rival to Christ, this saint, but one of the elect waiting in Heaven as we do on earth for the glory of His birthday to break over the world.
Fun with St. Nicholas, stockings filled with cookies for children who are good, is a reminder of the reason we give and receive gifts.
He gave out of his love for Christ and His little ones, out of gratitude to God, who gave Christ to him.
The feast of St. Lucy, on December 13, is the day for a feast of lights, for thinking of the Child who is Light, for planting the Christmas wheat. Sprouted, soft green by Christmas, it reminds us of our daily bread, the bread of life on our altars, the end of the story that has its beginning at Christmas.
All through the weeks of Advent, the harvest of mortifications increases, counted with little beans in tiny boxes, or with straws in an empty crèche.
Christmas Day the Beloved is here, tiny, helpless, newborn. The crèche is His throne, and we are like shepherds, invited to adore.
Gifts are given and received because we are the pampered children of God to whom He gives the gift of His Infant Son.
Following Christmas come the days when we greet and honor witnesses to His glory: St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents.
Then comes New Year’s.
Now the Church reminds us to look back at the sins of the past, and forward with holy hope to the opportunities of the future, and calls us to the altar to pledge our good intentions at the Mass that celebrates His Circumcision, the day He received His beautiful name.
Help your child to grow holier through liturgical celebration The liturgical year is a cycle unfolding from life to death to glory.
Observing it year after year, joining Christ with our love, our wills, and our understanding, we live the union of member to Body, no longer branches of the vine that are dead.
We are living, bearing fruit — or at least aspiring to.
How can one be any closer to Christ? Perhaps it sounds easy, this living the liturgical year. Or perhaps it sounds impossible.
It’s neither. But it’s slow. It will come to us, and we will grow in it only as fast as the Spirit allows.
It’s not just a matter of pasting over our lives with liturgical stickers. Its outward forms — its Advent wreaths and crèches and Christmas bread, its candles and blessings, its penitential purple and ashes and palms, its stories and customs and celebrations — are nothing if interiorly we’re not on fire with its spirit.
It’s the reality of Christ’s life, and it cannot be separated from the struggle to grow Christlike.
It’s the same old struggle to love, be kind, grow in patience, work well and play well, to please God in everything we do.
But it’s supported now by the graces loosed every day by the prayer of the Church. That’s the big difference.
Living liturgically, we’re really united to Him, praying the prayer of His Church.
Raising children liturgically, we’re using all the treasure at our command. We asked the children, “How do you feel about being Catholics?”
They answered, “Oh, being Catholics is fun! You have feasts, and saints, and stories, and things to do — and when you go to Mass and Father holds up our Lord, you say, ‘I love You!’ ”