advent of joyful penance
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Rigorous Advent 2023: 10 Ways to Have an Advent of Joyful Penance

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Over the years, I’ve come to realize my approach to Advent has been all wrong.

Basically, I’ve had no approach. I just let it pass without much of a notice.

Is Advent Supposed to Be Penitential?

There seems to be some controversy about whether Advent should be penitential or joyful.

No one is arguing that Advent is supposed to be as penitential as Lent, but did you know that Advent is about more than “joyful expectation”?

It is both penitential and joyful. We do our penances joyfully because we anticipate the coming of the Christ Child.

Liturgically, there are similarities between Advent and Lent.

“In the reign of Innocent III (1198-1216), the vestments of Advent were black. Long after that, pictures and statues were covered, the organ was silenced, and flowers were banned from the churches, just as during Lent. Even in the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites, where there was no special Advent liturgy, there was still a requirement to fast during the season before the Nativity. It was designed to remind us of the need to repent in preparation for a holy season.”

Catholic Answers

Here are some other ways the penitential nature of Advent is reflected in the Liturgy:

  • When a priest hears confessions in Advent, he wears the purple stole.
  • The Gloria is omitted on Sundays.
  • Flowers are removed, especially in the Traditional Latin Mass, and the organ is silent (except for on Gaudete Sunday).

“But Advent Is Not Included in the List of Penitential Seasons!”

This is true. In fact Canon 1250 says:

“The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent”.

Canon 1250)

However, as this New Liturgical Movement article says, ” The Church’s traditions are not comprehensively determined by or summed up in any Code of Canon Law, nor in any Missal or other liturgical book .”

Does it not make sense that when such a great feast such as the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) is near, that we should prepare for it?

Preparation is is full of rigorous and joyful penance. A perfect example is packing for an exciting vacation. Doing laundry and packing is somewhat penitential, is it not?

So, are you ready to have a more rigorous, penitential Advent? Let’s go.

The Road to Bethlehem: Daily Meditations for Advent and Christmas

road to bethlehem

10 Ways to Have an Advent of Joyful Penance

  1. Attend a Rorate Caeli Mass. A Rorate Mass (sometimes called Rorate Caeli Mass) is a traditional votive Mass,  in honor of the Blessed Virgin, which takes place in Advent. The important thing to know is that it usually takes place in the wee hours of the morning. Yikes! But it is so beautiful, it fills you with joy.
  2. Set your alarm to ring 15-30 minutes early. For those who are not morning people, this is TRULY penitential. If you are a morning person and you don’t mind doing this, go on to the next option.
  3. Attend Daily Mass, especially if you are not in the habit of doing so.
  4. Read a book on the 4 Last Things. We recommend “The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven“, by Fr Martin Von Cochem O.S.F.
  5. Turn off your TV or limit your video streaming. No, you don’t have to turn off for the whole season, if you don’t want to, but you can at least limit your viewing pleasure.

The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven

four last things
  1. Do a corporal work of mercy – consider volunteering at a food pantry or putting a little more money in the poor box.
  2. Reach out to someone who might be lonely. How about that elderly neighbor of yours who only gets visited by her children. Bring her a piece of pie, of if she’s Catholic, volunteer to take her to Mass.
  3. Be silent. Remain silent when your spouse does something that annoys you. Don’t participate in gossip.
  4. Spend half an hour in meditation. “Mental prayer is, as it were, a mirror, in which we see all the stains of the soul.” St Bonaventure.
  5. Eat more simply. Maybe eat that sandwich without Mayo. Drink water instead of soda.

These 10 ways to have a more joyful but penitential Advent are just suggestions. What suggestions do you have?

Check out this Podcast from 2019

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