Keeping Advent Simple

I am a great believer in simplicity. Unfortunately, that usually means making a special effort, because simplicity is not the same as being casual or careless about details. To be simple is to be focused in one direction only, and that is especially true of Advent.

Advent is very short this year, barely three weeks long. Just three weeks in which to prepare for the coming of our Saviour and for the transformation of our hearts and minds! It is therefore important not to let Advent become fussy, to allow things good in themselves to clutter our way. It always grieves me when I read of people setting themselves elaborate programmes of fasting and private devotions that become ends in themselves. The liturgy of Advent provides us with all we need. To read each day with care and attention the scriptures and, if possible, the other readings the Church sets before us; to pray in union with the Church on the themes she gives us week by week; to try to live each day in accordance with the gospel — this, surely, is the best way to prepare for the coming of God. Some people will find it necessary to read something more — an Advent-themed book, for example — or to make a conscious effort to overcome the selfishness of other times — by giving help to a local Charity, for example — but these are secondary. The most essential Advent preparation is the one that changes us interiorly for the better.

So, this Advent, I confidently predict that readers of this blog will all be much kinder, especially online, where there is so much unkindness to counteract; much more thoughtful, generous and patient. Unfortunately, they will know nothing about it because their gaze will be fixed on the one who is to come into the world, not on themselves. They may even feel a failure, because they will have nothing in particular to show for all their effort. There will be no long prayers said, no devotions painstakingly performed, no acts of charity to reckon up, only a simple, loving concentration on Jesus. But could there be any finer way to spend Advent? I think not.