Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Way of Looking at Christmas

I was baptized into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church shortly after I was born. I attended all the CCD classes, did my first communion, first confession and was confirmed into the church. I even thought about entering the priesthood during my college years. But, like many young adults today, I left the Church and only came back after the birth of my son. And in coming back, I began attending a Byzantine Catholic Church instead of the local Latin Rite church in my neighborhood.

In all my years, I never paid much attention to the Advent season. I would start getting excited about Christmas shortly after Thanksgiving ended. The entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas day was spent thinking about what gifts I wanted to buy and what gifts I wanted to receive. In addition to thinking about gifts, we would attend Christmas parties and partake in the festivities of the season. Then I came into my first Eastern Catholic Advent.

For those of you unfamiliar with Advent in the Eastern Catholic Church, it is a 6 week period of fasting and repentance. In many aspects, it is just like the Lenten period in the Latin Rite Church. The fast starts on November 15 and goes all the way to Christmas day. During the period, we abstain from meat on Wednesday and Friday. On Christmas Eve, the fast is expanded to include dairy products. The fast ends on Christmas Day and the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord goes on for 12 days up to Theophany. This is where the term the 12 days of Christmas comes from.

During this period, I have focused my energy on prayer, fasting and repentance during the period leading up to Christmas Day. I remember in years past, I would lament the abstinence from meat during Lent. However, this Advent period I have looked forward to the fast and chose to focus on preparing myself for the birth of Our Saviour Jesus Christ. And I will say that this has been the most rewarding period for me in a long time. While I still have purchased gifts for others and thought about things I would like to receive, I find myself spending more time thinking about the beauty of the Word becoming Flesh in the birth of Jesus. And while I have always thought the season of Christmas was a joyous time, this advent period has been the most joyful time for me.

Glory to Jesus Christ.