Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

coloring-calendarWith social obligations, consumer pressures, and family celebrations, Advent often becomes a season of busyness rather than a holy season of contemplation. Many of us could use help to reorient our minds and hearts to respond to this season in a thoughtful way.

To my delight, Paraclete Press has produced a beautiful Advent Coloring Calendar, a prayerful way to settle the mind and relax during this special season. The designs are hand-drawn by monastics from the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical community in the Benedictine tradition. Each is reminiscent of the geometric patterns in stained glass, and the facing page includes a brief verse, inspiring quote, or excerpt from a seasonal song. The website of Paraclete Press includes sample images to view before purchase.

Bringing prayerful music into your home can contribute to finding the joy in daily life. As a counter to the Santa Claus-filled songs in the hectic shopping districts, you might choose to listen to Advent carols from Gloriae Dei Cantores, or Gregorian chants sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola. The uplifting recording Keeping Christmas celebrates the traditional Service of Readings and Carols, and includes a 28-page insert with song lyrics and scripture citations. From the comfort of home you can be transported to the Church of the Transfiguration, amidst a welcoming Benedictine community, where Gloriae Dei Cantores are accompanied by the Extol Handbell Choir and Elements Theatre Company.

The Advent Color and Sound set would make a welcome gift for a loved one, or a personal treasure to enhance this holy season of expectant waiting. Through art and music we can find a path toward slowing down and noticing the beauty in the world around us. May you have a blessed Advent!


Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No fee was received for this review.


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7855Advent approaches: the season of expectant waiting, the season of heartfelt longing, the season of seeking for light in dark places. My practice in this season is a willful turning away from consumerism and reaching inward, even while I turn toward loved ones in celebrations. I want to reconnect with a sense that the hope and light we await has already come into our midst. A welcome companion this season is the beautiful book All Creation Waits: The Advent mystery of new beginnings (Paraclete Press). While the reader journeys through winter with nature’s wild creatures, encouragement abounds. For each animal knows inwardly that each winter births a new beginning.

In this lovely book, the daily meditations of Gayle Boss are accompanied by original woodcuts from artist David G. Klein. Readers will find refreshment and a renewed sense of wonder. Describing the reasons for establishing the liturgical season of Advent, Gayle Boss writes about the sense of primal fear that accompanies the increasing darkness of winter in the northern hemisphere. The church fathers advised fasting, almsgiving, and prayer–very different from our modern shopping extravaganzas. The spirit of quiet, however, can attune us to nature’s rhythm, bringing a sense of calm and peace.

As a lover of the natural world, Gayle Boss developed an admiration for the varied responses to the onset of winter. She writes, “The practice of Advent has always been about helping us grasp the mystery of a new beginning out of what looks like death. Other-than-human creatures–sprung, like us, from the Source of Life–manifest this mystery without question or doubt.” Connecting with the mystery will renew our hope.

The author resides in Michigan, and the animals featured are those of the northern woodlands, with a number commonly appearing in urban areas. They are diverse in size and habit, including deer, skunk, chipmunk, frog, and honey bee. One of my favorites is the humble chickadee, whose existence requires a tremendous amount of food to generate enough warmth. She compares the birds to a flock of St. Francises: “Like the saint wed to Lady Poverty, every winter day the question of their existence is open: Will there be enough of what they need to take them through the dark night, into tomorrow? Beyond reason, like the saint, they act as if the question is truly an opening, a freedom, a joy.” The woodcuts are gorgeous, bringing quiet life to each animal.

Truly we can learn much from watching wildlife and attuning to the wholeness of creation. Readers will benefit from the thoughtful, humble, and loving meditations of Gayle Boss, and animal lover would treasure this volume for Advents to come.

May this Advent season deepen your sense of wonder, your hopefulness for our world, and your love for all God’s creation. Peace be upon you.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No fee was received for this review.

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time-to-get-ready-an-advent-christmas-reader-to-wake-your-soul-17Advent might be my favorite time of year. This is a precious opportunity to cultivate a sense of wonder and hopefulness, to reflect on the message of Christmas and to consider its implications on our lives. For reading and spiritual refreshment this Advent season, I will be reading Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas reader to wake your soul. Author Mark A. Villano invites readers to “wake up and see how God is moving in your life.”

In Time to Get Ready, Villano has brought together personal reflections passages from scripture, and inspirational writings from the first week of Advent through the feast of the Epiphany. Throughout the book he offers encouragement to read, listen, and pray. We are invited to retrain ourselves to wait with patience, while also acting out of faith by serving others.

This is a richly written volume that surely will bring inspiration to your Advent and Christmas. I highly recommend Time to Get Ready, for personal reflection, retreat days, and group study.

A special note: As of this writing (November 30) the Advent and Christmas books at Paraclete Press are on sale for 45% off the list price until tomorrow, December 1. On their website you also can see a trailer for Time to Get Ready and read an excerpt.


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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stained glass by William Morris, designed by Edward Burne-Jones (1874)

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we sang one of my favorite church songs: “Canticle of the Turning” by Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, and Theresa Donohoo. The words are rooted in the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise where she prophesies the coming of God’s peace and justice (Luke 1:46-55). He has filled the hungry with good things, Mary says, and this song echoes her declaration that “the hungry poor shall weep no more, for the world is about to turn.”

This song never fails to stir my heart, bringing tears to my eyes even as it renews my hope that yes, with God’s help we can use our hands to create a world of justice and peace. May you find inspiration, light, and hope this Advent season.

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may God’s light break into the darkness, bringing healing to all our wounds. As we celebrate the inbreaking of light in the natural world, with winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, I’d like to share a beautiful solstice reflection from Jan Richardson:

a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart….
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

(excerpt from “Blessing for the Longest Night”
© Jan Richardson janrichardson.com)

I am grateful to a friend for sharing Jan Richardson‘s passionate, thoughtful reflections and her creative works of art. May her work be a blessing to all who read it.

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“God is already here. Through our wanderings, our questions, our encounters with beauty and with pain, the God within us is revealed. Advent is waking up to God in our midst. It is in the wandering that our eyes are open to the deeper truth. So let us not sleep through Advent.” —Simone Campbell, S.S.S.

Each year Pax Christi USA produces an inspiring Advent reflection booklet that carries their witness of Christian nonviolence. Entitled Waking up to God in our Midst, this year’s booklet focuses on the themes of economic and interracial justice and features thought-provoking writing from Sister Simone Campbell, SSS; Adrienne Alexander; Shannen Dee Williams; and Rev. Joseph Nangle, ofm.

Pax Christi USA also has compiled a helpful page of Advent resources.

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With a sense of expectancy, I am beginning to prepare my heart for the season of waiting. Advent, the beginning of the new church year, will arrive on November 30. We can take this time to reflect and see where God is present in our lives, and how we ca be present for one another. During this season, when many people are choosing to be in a rush, we can intentionally seek more prayer time, a more contemplative rhythm. In this we might discover the roots of true joy.

Over the coming weeks I will re-read one of my favorite Advent books, Silence & Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro. In this book readers are invited to reflect on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. We see how longing, waiting, and faithfulness were experienced in their lives, and how our lives, too, are full of this hunger for God. Elizabeth and Zechariah give us examples of the mysterious ways that God works in our lives, giving us hopeful joy that we can anticipate God coming into our hearts, if only we prepare room. I encourage you to read my previously posted review, and to have this book as a companion during your prayer times this season.

For prayers by an Advent wreath, I highly recommend O Radiant Dawn by Lisa Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com. Read my previously posted review for details on how this booklet can benefit your prayer time, whether you will be praying alone or with children.

I enjoyed the focus on on the O Antiphons in O Radiant Dawn, and I encourage you to explore this liturgical tradition. One collection of resources, including brief daily prayers, can be found through the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, which is Sr. Joan Chittister’s order. If you are drawn to listen and contemplate the O Antiphons, there also are beautiful recordings available online, via youtube.

Over at The Art of Simple there is a wonderful collection of resources aimed at keeping the Advent season both joy-filled and simple. You might begin with Tsh’s brief and encouraging post from last year.

What are your favorite books and traditions for a prayerful Advent? I invite you to share in the comments below.

May you be filled with joyful expectancy that this season holds as you make room in your heart for the coming of peace and hope.

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