Church of the Home
Sara: Advent is a time of waiting. We are waiting in hope for both Christ and the coming of his kingdom at the end of time. Liturgically, I’ve always found Lent to be one of my favorite seasons. However, last year, as we were awaiting the birth of Christ (and our baby), I became able to more fully appreciate the season of Advent.
Since we’ve been married, Justin and I have been working to form our domestic church – the church of the home. We continue to ponder how to celebrate our liturgical year within our home and center our family life on Christ. One of my favorite things we’ve done is to have an “altar” on our living room fireplace mantle. We have a Holy Family statue (given to us at our wedding), along with rosaries, a picture of our family, and a picture of Justin and me praying at church on our wedding day. We also have flowers and a cloth (actually a cloth napkin) with the color based on the liturgical year calendar. Conveniently, the chair I use to nurse Gus is located across from it. This helps remind me to pray when he’s nursing.
Justin: It is very important to me that we develop some family holiday traditions. Growing up we would put up the Christmas tree and get together with family, but other than that we didn’t have many deeply ingrained family rituals or traditions. Sure, we had the presents under the tree, but there was nothing that truly marked the passing of seasons until Christmas.
Sara: During Advent specifically, we’ve worked to have some “no stress” ways to honor the Advent season. First, we have an Advent wreath on our dining room table. Because I’m paranoid and the idea of fire around Gus doesn’t seem like a great option, we don’t light the candles but simply have it on the table.
Justin: The advent wreath is one of the few symbols of the season I remember from my childhood. I still remember going to Mass each week and the building excitement of seeing a new candle lit. It was a sign that Christmas soon would be here.
Sara: As Gus gets older and can appreciate fire, we will probably re-examine our thoughts on lighting the candles.
We also have a nativity set (minus the baby Jesus) in our family room where we watch television. When Gus gets older, I’ll hide Baby Jesus before Christmas Mass, and he can then search for the Baby Jesus figurine following Mass. We also try not to listen to/sing Christmas carols until the O Antiphons (the seven antiphons recited December 17-23) begin, and to go to Mass as a family on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Another neat idea I read about was to go see Christmas lights on December 13 – the feast of St. Lucy (my patron saint!), the patron of light.
We are working hard to fast with the church and celebrate with the church. Obviously, in Lent this means fasting. However, it also means partying when the church has feast days! In December, in addition to Advent, we also have the feast day of one of Gus’s patron saints, St. Francis Xavier, on December 3. Next year, we’ll have to have a cake to celebrate his patron saint feast day.
Justin: I tried to get Sara to make a cake this year, but as Gus doesn’t eat solid food yet she was able to see through my ploy to get her to bake a cake just for me!
Sara: Since Gus has two patron saints (St. Augustine and St. Francis Xavier), I guess Gus will get to have cake for feast days twice a year! Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a great feast day, so we’ll probably try to eat Mexican food on December 12.
Justin: Let us not forget the biggest feast of them all, the Christmas octave! That’s right; we should really celebrate Christmas for eight days. This is often forgotten. How often do we put up our Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving and then take them down the day after Christmas? I sometimes wonder how much more we would appreciate Christmas if we learned to truly wait for it and then truly celebrated it.
Sara: One resource that has been very helpful for us is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) “Household Blessings and Prayers.” This has great prayers for lighting the Advent wreath, blessing a Christmas tree, and a prayer to say before opening presents on Christmas morning. It was one of the best wedding presents we got!
As the years go by, and our family life changes, I’m sure our family traditions and customs will change. However, right now, we’re simply thankful we have a start to our liturgical family life!