Preparing for the coming of Christ

By 
  • December 4, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - With Christmas approaching, it’s important not to lose sight of the preparation that should come beforehand — and this doesn’t just mean picking out the right presents and decorations.

Fr. Vito Marziliano, pastor at All Saints parish in Toronto’s west end, has tried to make the Advent season really one of spiritual preparation for his parishioners by offering workshops to help them prepare their spiritual “inn” for Christ.
One recent workshop, for example, focused on how to create a sacred space in the home. Another, for children, had them making a manger out of a shoe box and writing down a personal plan for Advent, which would include placing a note each day in the manger about something they did that would make Jesus happy.

Marziliano said preparing the children spiritually can do wonders for the adults.

“You address the children, but the child in each one of us is fed,” he said.

For those who either don’t have workshops or Advent prayer groups in their parish, there is always the Internet. Different web sites, such as the Toronto archdiocese web site, provide explanations of symbols and prayers to recite before lighting candles on an Advent wreath in the home.

Gregory Beath, a parishioner at St. Bonaventure in Toronto, said that when he was still a masters student in theology, he would get together with friends during Advent every Sunday to light the candles on their wreath, pray together and share a potluck meal.

This Advent, he is trying to set aside time each day for personal reflection and prayer. In the past, he has found good web sites with an Advent focus that provided either readings or a recording with music followed by a prayer and a reflection — a 15-minute session easy to listen through at the office before work or at home. Some of Beath’s favourites include Jesuit web sites www.pray-as-you-go.org and www.creighton.edu/collaborativeministry/advent.

But this year, Beath said simply making more of an effort to build a period of quiet time into his day for the Office of Readings (also available online at www.universalis.com ) helps him focus, pray and reflect on how he is preparing spiritually for Christ.

Fr. Pat O’Dea, pastor and executive director of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto, said that with the uncertain economic times, people may want to pray as a family or as a community to determine how they can best serve others during Advent and Christmas — something that students have been doing at the Newman Centre for some time.

“We need to be asking how we can reflect the gift-giving into the community,” he said. “Eight years ago when I started working at the Newman Centre, I was surprised to notice that a lot of students don’t go home for the holidays, so what I do is host a Christmas dinner for them.”

He added that a lot of students are also too poor to afford food or winter clothing, especially if they have come to Canada as international students. So they host a food and clothing drive for the students and for other food and clothing banks that are most in need of supplies during the winter months.

The key, he added, is to determine where there is a need, reach out to the community, but also to prepare spiritually through the sacrament of Reconciliation and of course prayer and reflection.

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