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As a child, we spend all year, counting down the days until Christmas morning, waiting to see what lies under the tree, 365 days, waiting and longing to receive gifts from our loved ones. We spend 25 days preparing for Christmas morning, decorating the house, baking cookies and shopping. We spend one day opening presents, only to rinse and repeat, waiting another 365 for the next Christmas. 

In our culture of instant gratification and affirmation, we often don’t slow down enough to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas and the gift of Christ’s birth. Rushing to check things off our to-do list, we remain restless, weary and consumed by the world. Advent is often anything but quiet and peaceful. We allow the world’s distractions and worries to wash over us. Reflecting upon how we allow the world’s distractions to get in the way of seeking the Lord, I often think back to when I was preparing to travel abroad.  Before I left, I was afraid, my heart was weary, and I was exhausted from fighting the world. I knew during the semester ahead that the Lord was calling me to disconnect, to hand over my wounds and rest in His presence in a simple, yet, profound way.

The Lord is found in the simple and extravagant parts of our lives and everywhere in between.

While studying abroad last Fall, we were encouraged to disconnect with the world, embrace the semester ahead, and to be more intentional about listening to the Lord. I spent the semester hiking the Austrian alps, walking the tiny towns of Europe, and admiring God’s creation. The Carthusian monastery, my home away from home, was quiet, simple, and beautiful. Many late nights, some friends and I often snuck into our chapel, where many had prayed before us. I would sit on the railing of the choir loft, overlooking the chapel, reflecting on the Lord’s love and how He was working in my life. As we sang songs of praise, it beautifully echoed within the chapel. It was simple, quaint, and intimate. Christ’s presence was evident throughout these small, quiet moments of praise. 

These simple memories of sitting down in a coffee shop, visiting local chapels, and hiking the alps were where I was able to encounter the Lord in a real way. It was in the moments of silence and attentiveness that the Lord was working. The Lord is found in the simple and extravagant parts of our lives and everywhere in between. It is in the little moments of praise which I find rest in Him. That semester held many opportunities for contemplation, reflection, and space to discover the realness of the Lord’s presence and love in my life. My semester abroad reminds me what the season of Christmas is about; a time for silence and space to rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and His longing to receive our hearts. The season of Christmas is a time which we are called to allow for His peace to overflow within our restless hearts.

The season of Christmas is a time which we are called to allow for His peace to overflow within our restless hearts.

The Advent season gives us the opportunity to slow down and silence our heart in preparation for Christ’s birth. Advent is a time of preparation for the Savior’s birth, to cleanse and purify our souls and make room to receive Him in a new way. The Christmas Octave is a time to celebrate our Savior’s birth and a time for welcoming Him into the place which we had spent so long preparing for Him. It is a time to welcome Christ into our hearts and accept the peace, forgiveness, and mercy which He so graciously offers us. It is an opportunity to focus on our true purpose in life: to worship and serve the king of the universe who made us. Advent and the Christmas Octave is a time when we can stop, reflect, and experience great peace. 

A few new ways I am celebrating this Christmas Octave:

  • Taking time in prayer before I begin my day by praying the liturgy of the hours followed by worship music. 
  • Intentionally turning off the music in my car, spending time in prayer.
  • Deleting all social media off my phone, allowing less time for distractions from the Lord. 
  • Adding an extra spiritual book to read when I have extra time.
  • Like a child on Christmas morning, we rejoice in the Lord and are in awe of His goodness. We should be beaming with joy and overflowing with His love. The Christmas Octave is a time filled with joy, wonder, and hope. In the Church, the celebration of Christmas does not stop on December 26th, it continues for the 12 days following. During the 12 days of Christmas, the Church celebrates Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family, St. John the Apostle, the Holy Innocents, and the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. It is a time where the Church is called to reflect upon the mysteries of the Child, Jesus, and how His birth affects us in a personal way. The Church is called deeper into prayer, hoping to understand who Jesus is and how to enter into a more intimate relationship with Him. It is a time of discovery of how we can live our lives out of love for the Lord. 

    During this time, I often reflect upon the many blessings which God has placed in my life throughout the year, how I have personally grown closer to Him and how I have loved others around me. I pray in thanksgiving for the many joys, sufferings, and opportunities of growth from that year. This year has been filled with many changes and transitions into new roles. The year of 2020 has been hard for all of us, throwing many curves and challenges. This year, I graduated college, moved back home, entered a new job, made new friends, and said hard goodbyes to old friends. This year has been full of embracing the uncomfortable and trusting that the Lord’s plan is better than my own. 2020 has been a year of growth and learning to lean on Jesus in the heartache when things don’t go as I planned.

    The Church is called deeper into prayer, hoping to understand who Jesus is and how to enter into a more intimate relationship with Him.

    In preparation for the following year, I set my intentions of how I am going to strive to be present to others, what I am called to pursue, and how I may follow the Lord’s plan for my life more devoutly. The Christmas Octave is meant to help us grow and move forward in our journey of faith. Ending the Christmas Octave, we rejoice and thank Jesus for the time of peace, serenity, and courage to move forward with the following year, which may be filled with many joys and sufferings. 

    Entering this new year, the Lord is calling us to enter into something greater, a more intimate relationship with Him and to lean on Him in the present moment. Jesus gives us the grace to endure the Crosses we might bear and fills us with great peace if we ask Him. Reflecting upon the Christmas Octave, Jesus is calling us closer to His Sacred Heart and to surrender our will to His through our Blessed Virgin Mary on the Solemnity of Mary. 

    The season of Christmas is a time of wonder, peace, and surrender to Our King. Jesus calls us deeper. He longs and patiently waits for our fiat. Jesus’s mother, Mary, gave her yes to our Lord with her whole life. She continued to give her yes, knowing the heartache and pain which was to come. 

     Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” // Luke 1:38

    Like Mary, Jesus invites us to give Him our yes in many forms. Take this season of Christmas to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Don’t waste time waiting for His return next Christmas to follow His will. He is always present and ready for our return accompanied by a forgiving and loving embrace. The Lord is a real person who loves us and longs for our reciprocation of love. Entering the Christmas Octave and the new year, let us rejoice, for this is the day which the Lord has made to give our fiat to Him, to love and receive His love in a personal way.

    “Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and suffering great need of heavenly food might be made rich in him.” – St. Clare of Assisi

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