Catholic Advent Resources
In modern society, the Advent season has come to be treated as no more than the shopping and baking period between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. While there is of course nothing wrong with either shopping or baking, it is important to take time to remember the meaning and significance of this liturgical season. It is a busy time of year, to be sure, but with a concise, yet insightful Advent meditations book every one can, and should, take a little time each day to pray and reflect on the deep meaning of the Advent season – in regards to both preparing for the anniversary of Christ’s birth and preparing for Christ’s second and final coming.
“Advent and Christmas” Series
The Advent and Christmas series is a very popular line of books filled with daily Advent meditations, compilations of prayers and words of wisdom from some of the Church’s beloved saints and teachers. As the name suggests, these books not only encompass the Advent season, but also the 12 day Feast of Christmas.
Each book contains an introduction and a brief “how to use this book” guide. Basically, these books are not specific to one year, but may be used as a prayer aid again and again or used one year and then passed on to a friend or family member to pray with the next year. They don’t include dates, so they will never go out of date.
The length of the Advent season varies from year to year, as Advent always begins on a Sunday, but can end on any day of the week since Christmas is not the same day of the week each year. The Advent season is always between 22 and 28 days, so these books have reflections for 28 days. They are numbered (day 1, day 2, etc) and the books recommend beginning with the day 1 entry and simply doubling up a few days (i.e. perhaps on Saturdays meditating with one selection in the morning, and the next in the evening.) Following the daily Advent readings and prayers, there is a section of 12 days of readings and prayers for Christmas, and a section of format ideas for structuring your daily prayer time.
The available titles in the series are:
Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton, Advent And Christmas With Fulton J. Sheen, Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Pope John Paul II, Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Padre Pio, Advent and Christmas with the Saints, and Advent and Christmas Wisdom from St. Francis of Assisi.
Magnificat Advent Companion
The Magnificat Advent Companion is a small but insightful Advent devotional aid from the publishers of the Magnificat monthly missalette. It is a wonderful little guide that is both useful and very reasonably priced. The Advent Companion is a yearly item. Each year the companion contains new articles and reflections, and is dated to fit the Advent season for the year. For example, if Advent is 24 days long, the 24 days are numbered and labeled (i.e. Tuesday December 16th, Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent, etc) so they are not intended to be re-used each year.
Because many readers of the Advent companion also use the monthly Magnificat, and to keep prices low, the Magnificat Advent Companion does not contain the text of each daily Bible reading. It does contain the Sunday gospel texts. However, you need not be a Magnificat subscriber to benefit from the companion. Each daily meditation indicates what Biblical reading it is based on, so you can read the Bible verse in your personal Bible and then read the reflection in the Advent Companion.
Aside from a reflection provided for each day, the Magnificat Advent Companion is also filled with additional prayers, articles, and other ideas for celebrating Advent. For example, the 2008 edition includes a section in the back on praying Advent Stations, a reflection on the ancestors of Christ and the events leading up to the Incarnation. The Creation of Adam and Eve is the first station, The Covenant beginning with the Promise to Abraham and Sarah is the second, The Angelic announcement to Manoah and his wife is the third station, and so on, leading through the Old Testament to Christ’s birth. Each year the Advent Companion is produced in a limited print run, so you’ll want to get yours early before they sell out.
Other Advent Prayer Books
In addition to the Advent and Christmas series and the yearly Magnificat Advent companion, there are several other Books of Daily Scripture Readings and Meditations for Advent available.
Two small and inexpensive booklets that are easy to carry along with you are Daybreaks: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas and Waiting in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas. For a low price, these compact booklets contain insightful prayers and reflections, and the size makes it easy to pull the booklet out and pray wherever you may be.
An ideal book to place on the coffee table would be The Blessing of Christmas from Pope Benedict XVI (at the time, Cardinal Ratzinger). It is a book with popular, yet profound and moving meditations from the pope on the Christmas and Advent seasons, and is lavishly illustrated. The book would make a wonderful gift, or great to put on your own side table so that you can pick it up and read the insightful words and gaze at the lovely pictures at any time.
Another daily option is Season of Light. This book, ideal for either classrooms or families, combines daily prayer with the practice of lighting the Advent wreath daily, a popular Catholic tradition. Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation is yet anther great collection of daily meditations on this central mystery.
There are also other books if you are not looking for something that is specifically a daily guide. For example there is The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas, which is a collection of nine insightful sermons on the mysteries and events of these seasons. Or the book Dawn of the Messiah, which reacquaints Catholics with the oft overlooked, yet significant, details in scripture, tying back to Old Testament prophecy and the role of certain aspects of the Jewish culture of Jesus’s time and before.