By Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty, MHSH
As a child in a Catholic family, Advent was a time of preparing spiritually for Christmas. We often “gave up” something such as candy as a reminder that these days had a holy significance. We never set up the tree and crèche until Christmas Eve. Daily attendance at Mass was scheduled into our school days. Of course, there was the usual excitement about what we wanted for Christmas – and occasionally I stumbled upon a “hidden” Christmas gift. I remember the girl’s bicycle in the cellar – Yes, I was the only girl! Participating in the Annual Nativity plays kept us focused on the real meaning of Christmas.
In Catholic high school, the Sister distributed a prayer card with a Novena in preparation for Christmas. I faithfully recited that prayer and still sometimes return to it at present.
When I entered the Mission Helpers, our Scripture and theology classes and special prayers enriched my understanding of this holy season. I began to appreciate more fully the cries of the prophets to change our lives in preparation for the coming of Christ. I have come to realize that on Christmas we do not simply celebrate the past event of Christ’s coming, but also the coming of Christ in the graced and sacramental moments of our lives, as well as Christ’s final coming at the end of time.
Advent is a season of joyful hope. The hope that is stirred in my heart at this time of the Liturgical year brings with it the conviction that I can be a source of hope to others as I reach out in caring and compassion throughout the holiday season. Now, as Christmas approaches, I find myself linked to my past as I once again recite that familiar Novena prayer:
“Hail and Blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in the freezing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my petition.”
Reflection: How can I be a source of hope to others during this time of preparation?