We are moving at a rapid pace towards Christmas. Every week we light one more candle and every week at Mass we are reminded that Emmanuel is coming, prepare the way, rejoice for the birth of Christ is near. Now that we are in the fourth and final week of Advent, the anxiety may start to settle in.
“Did I do enough to prepare my heart for Christmas?”
“Am I ready to cross the finish line with all my material and spiritual to-do lists checked off?”
“Why am I not rejoicing more?”
Friend, if this is you, then I’m right there with you. I usually arrive at Christmas wondering if I am changed at all from my Advent experience. I had the intention to do more spiritual preparation but it either didn’t get scheduled or the extra prayer time I did do just didn’t bring any extra fulfillment with it.
When the discouragement is taking hold, that is when we must muster up the sheer will power to continue TRUSTING in God’s grace. God is walking this journey with us, even if it has been the most spiritually dry, the most hurried, and the most unsettled Advent of our lives.
St. Therese of Lisieux suffered through this spiritual dryness throughout her life, but especially in her final days on earth. She writes:
“When I want to rest my heart, fatigued from the darkness which surrounds it, in the memory of the marvelous country toward which I aspire, my torment redoubles. I believe I have made more acts of faith in the last year than during the rest of my life.” (I Believe in Love p. 79).
Her perseverance in trusting God’s love and believing He was with her, even when she did not feel any consolation, should give us hope that we too are walking with Him, even when His peace seems to be the farthest thing from our hearts.
In these last days of Advent, there is still time to make room in our inns for the Baby Jesus. In fact, there is time after Advent to continue to make room for Him. Each and every day we fight against interior doubts and spiritual dullness, so in a sense, every day is a little Advent. Every day we must find solutions to refresh our dried-out souls with the invigorating water of grace.
Here are some ways to actively fight against the disheartening spiritual dryness, both now and in 2017:
Schedule in Adoration
I started going to weekly Adoration this month and it is amazing what a difference that one weekly hour of silence and prayer in front of the true Presence makes. I don’t always know what to say or even feel like going, but just making the effort to be there with Him has made a powerful impact. Plus, the silence is truly golden since I am a stay-at-home mom with two kids under five, so praying at home is usually interrupted and not very meditative. If you haven’t had a chance to pray in front of Jesus this month, aside from Mass, I urge you to schedule in some time this week to go be with Him, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Pull out your calendar and schedule it in for 2017 and just take that leap of faith. Push yourself to visit God in His home no matter how unmotivated you are because if you just make the effort, He will meet you more than halfway with open arms.
Don’t worry about formality
Whenever I sit down to pray, I often end up feeling inadequate. I don’t have flowery language to offer or sophisticated phrases to transition me from the prayer of thanksgiving to the prayer of petition. My personal prayer is often scrambled, scattered, and I suddenly can’t think of a thing to say or remember the people I promised to pray for. It dawned on me, just recently, that no matter how trivial or disorganized my prayer seems, the important part is to persevere in prayer and not be discouraged by my lack of perfection or eloquence. Prayer is a conversation with God and that is all it needs to be. Chatting with Him and listening to Him is enough.
Use your resources
There are so many books, articles, websites (like the one you are on right now), and spiritual talks that are at our fingertips. Sometimes I open a book or click on an article that I didn’t have any expectation for, and find myself suddenly immersed in inspiration and grace because of the message that is right there in front of me. Often when I least expect it, the words just jump right off the page and convey exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I’m in a Well Read Mom book club this year and the book we are currently assigned is I Believe in Love by Father Jean c. J. d’Elbee. As I read it, I can literally feel the Holy Spirit transforming me in the way I pray and see my relationship with God. Find a book about a saint or a spiritual topic that interests you and be inspired. Try the Catholic Mom book collection for starters. I also really enjoy listening to Father John Riccardo; he always says just the right thing to encourage me. You can find his podcasts here.
Open the Bible
“Let’s go to …. God’s book instead of Facebook.” This phrase hit home for me when reading the Advent Devotions for Women from Jenny at The Littlest Way blog. How many days do I spend way too much time browsing social media but don’t set aside a few minutes to browse through God’s word? If you are looking for some last minute Advent scripture reading, my local Bishop, James Conley, recommended the Book of Luke and the Book of Isaiah, when he spoke to my moms group earlier this month.
Make Acts of Faith
Even when you do all the spiritual things you think you should be doing and you are still not consoled, remember to make acts of faith like St. Therese did whenever she could not feel God’s presence. He will reward you for your confidence and trust in Him, especially when it takes all your will power. This prayer from I Believe in Love is a great place to start: Jesus, “you are in my heart. I do not feel it, but I know it. I believe in your love for me and I believe in my love for you” (p. 78).
How will you make room for Baby Jesus in your inn? O come, let us adore Him.
Copyright 2016 Hannah Christensen