Our Spiritual Advisor
Ark Spiritual Director’s Article from Fr Jim Brown
Happy Holydays dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I say that greeting not to mimic the secular culture going on around us. A culture that relegates to two events during the “Winter Holidays”, Thanksgiving Day, focused on overeating and football on T.V. and the one day of December 24/25th with a focus on material stuff exchange. Oh there might be a slight religious expression given to thanksgiving and Christmas spirit, family gatherings and sharing memories, but that is about all a secular culture can offer.
I remember many years ago, I wanted to spend Advent and Christmas locked away in a quiet monastery somewhere hidden in the hills. Then I realized that God sent His Son into the very cacophony of the world that is our secular culture. So I decided to make the most of our own holi holy Days.
Our “HolyDays” span two months, from the four weeks of Advent, to the Christmas Octave, to the Season of Epiphany to the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on February 2nd. Plus a string of holy days as well. Following the Advent Season we have Christmas tide, Epiphany of the Lord, and the conclusion of the Christmas Season (not on December 26th) on February second.
As we anticipate Christmas, we first must prepare ourselves to be open to what God wants to do in our own lives. This year, Cycle B - from Mark’s Gospel, Advent is the shortest Season because the Fourth Week is only a few hours long instead of a week. No matter, we still celebrate four Sundays of Advent.
Each of the four weeks have their own violet candle, representing a period of time (centuries) that God prepared for the Birth of His Son, Jesus, except the third week which is rose color called Gaudete Sunday. I am using a book by Fr. Mark Toups called “Rejoice!, An Advent Pilgrimage into the Heart of Scripture.” from Ascension Press. (YEAR B). His reflections for each week as well as each day of the week. The first week centers on the HEAR, the second week: SPEAK; the third: HEAL; and the fourth: ENTER IN. This year we are following Mary and Joseph on their Advent Journey.
Always during Advent we celebrate several very import feast days, December 6th St Nicholas Day (the authentic St Nick not the imposter); December 8th the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (a Holy Day of Opportunity read obligation); December 12th the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Also our Jewish brothers and sisters will celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah from December 8-15th.
The Christmas Season then begins on Christmas Eve, December 24 and continues for the twelve days until The Feast of Epiphany. Within those days we celebrate January First, The Feast of the Mary’s Motherhood of God and the Day Dedicated for Prayer for Peace as the new calendar years begins.
Epiphany runs to the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus and then to the Presentation (40 days) from His birth, on February 2nd.
What a blessing we have in celebrating not just a few days, but several seasons during these Winter Holidays. It’s even better than something Hallmark Christmas movies can produce.
The real blessing is that we don’t have to do much in preparation but to open our hearts and our lives and surrender to what the Lord wants to do for us. I do hope you can share some of my thoughts with others and witness our faith life in the true meaning of what Christmas is really all about…God’s tremendous love for you and me.
Enjoy! And Happy Holy Days!
Fr Jim Brown