By Barb Arland-Fye
Typical scene in the Fye household on the first Saturday night of Advent: our family, having returned home from Mass, patiently waits to eat dinner. I’m the one causing the delay, searching in vain for that long-lost folder of Advent prayers from last year. No one eats until we say an Advent prayer!
This year will be different. My parish plans to publish in our parish bulletin one prayer for each of the four weeks of Advent from Creighton University’s Praying Advent website. It’s a wonderful resource, and a representative gave us permission to publish the prayers, which can be adapted as needed. Take a look at what Creighton offers: (http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/)
Our family will pray each week’s short Advent prayer (adapted from what’s on the website) and discuss a reflection question accompanying the prayer. This activity will enrich our tradition of lighting candles on the Advent wreath with a brief period of contemplation. In other words, it’s doable and realistic in a season that’s become overwhelmed with busyness.
We’re working our way into another tradition — reading and reflecting on the “Little Blue Book,” an Advent devotional booklet that takes just six minutes out of a day. It’s one in a series of “Little Books” created by the late Bishop Ken Untener of the Diocese of Saginaw, Mich., for the liturgical seasons of Advent/ Christmas, Lent and Easter. Little Books uses the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina. Pages on the right-hand side include verse from the Sunday Gospel for the liturgical season and pages on the left-hand side feature a “buffet table” of information on such topics as Catholic customs, traditions, saint of the day and historical tidbits, according to the Little Books website (www.littlebooks. org).
Bishop Untener’s Little Books staff continues to produce the books and distribute them to parishes such as mine at a very reasonable cost. They’re also available in digital format.
Prayer resources and opportunities abound, not just for Advent, but may be worth exploring especially during these four weeks we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth and anticipate his return. One form of prayer is Liturgy of the Hours, which I have grown to appreciate immensely.
Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office), is known as the prayer of the Church and dates back to early Christian times. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, saw a need to reform Liturgy of the Hours because it had become a prayer prayed almost exclusively by clergy. The Council Fathers sought to encourage lay people to also embrace this form of prayer and to pray it in community.
As a result of decisions made at Vatican II, Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) form the “two hinges on which the daily office turns” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 89a). Night prayer (Compline) marks the conclusion of the day. Office of Readings can be recited at any hour (“Imbued with the Spirit of the Liturgy,” p. 54).
I’ve made a habit of praying evening prayer with Sister Laura Goedken, O.P., before the end of the work day at diocesan headquarters, whenever possible. The psalms, canticles, antiphons and Scripture readings are inspiring. For example, Evening Prayer on the First Sunday of Advent offers a great sense of hope which concludes with this prayer: “All powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven ….”
My family won’t take a bite of dinner Saturday night until we’ve prayed an Advent prayer. But there won’t be any protests because it’s become a beautiful tradition that grows in meaning with each passing year.