Father Joseph Johnson in his homily for the First Sunday of Advent at the Cathedral of St. Paul reflected on something that is very much in the air right now, at least for me and those whom I know and read: the continuing exteriorizing of life. He chose to contrast the life of Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, texting and blogging – blogging  I tell you! – with the lack or loss of the interior life. I know he has a point and the point is well taken. I am blogging about his point now and I will tweet about this blog and note my blog post as my Facebook status as soon as I am finished writing. But he really does have a point, that as individuals in this culture of exterior life, we need to move inside, and get to know ourselves as beings in relationship with the Creator. We need to pray and we need to be quiet. We need to reflect on our lives and think about who we are.  We can only do that by cultivating time for ourselves. For me, it is even more than that. We live in a culture that treasures extroverts and ignores introverts. We think of extroverts as “doers,” but we are much in need of the life of introversion, which means we need to start valuing the gifts of the quiet among us, of the contemplatives in our midst.  We need the opposite of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It;” we need, “Just Contemplate.”

Fr. Johnson suggested that in preparation for Christmas, we might throughout Advent do three things to cultivate our interior lives:

1) Do not shop on Sunday. Use Sundays as the days on which you begin to work on your relationship with God, not just in Church, but throughout the day;

2) Make time every day to be with God; spend time in prayer in order to take time to look inside and create a deeper relationship with God;

3) Appreciate life, both in terms of your own life and that of all life around you. In times of economic troubles, and many other troubles, it can be difficult to appreciate the gift of life itself. When we become wrapped up in the exterior life, what is going on “outside” of me, we can lose sight of our interior life. Life is good, though, a gift from God, and even in the midst of painful events “outside,” we can still cultivate an interior sense of the goodness of life through our relationship with God. Life is a gift.

These three things, I thought, were interesting starting points for focusing our spiritual lives in the midst of the annual shopping frenzies, family gatherings and parties of Advent and Christmastide.  Are there methods, new or old, which you use to focus on the spiritual realities of Advent and Christmas?

John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens

Comments

Michelle Russell | 11/30/2010 - 2:19pm
We have the daily family devotional around the advent wreath, which, much to my family's chagrin, includes singing!  This is the first year we have done this in our family, as neither of our families of origin put much emphasis on the "Christ" in "Christmas", but this year there was a stronger call for me to place the emphasis on the "spiritual realities of Advent and Christmas".  In addition, I am very aware of saying "Merry Christmas!" instead of the politically correct "happy holidays".  Many people are surprised, and seem to light up a bit when I say Merry Christmas, and usually they will respond in kind.  It is a small thing, but sometimes the small things make a big impact.  And since I homeschool my boys, this year we are studying the Advent Scriptures for each Sunday, watching the development of the story from the first Sunday through to the Christmas readings.  We have always read the birth narrative on Christmas eve, this year I am just expanding upon that idea to include all the Scriptural "preparations" leading up to the big event.

PAUL LOATMAN JR | 12/6/2010 - 12:36pm
THINK. [Additional commentary is superfluous.]