Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Awaiting the Savior's birth

Our secular society began celebrating Christmas before the turkey was picked clean last month. Okay, maybe before it went into the oven, or perhaps even before it was plucked. I think it was the day after Thanksgiving, in fact, that one of the local stations began playing Christmas music exclusively. This trend of Christmas coming ever earlier is rightly bemoaned, as it's mainly commercially driven. It's certainly bemoaned here in the Klein household, where the kids have responded to this bemoaning by gleefully exclaiming, as if they've heard a forbidden word, every time they hear Christmas mentioned on the radio.

I actually don't mind too much. There's something of expectation and waiting inherent to Christmas. After all, it's about the birth of a child, which is always preceded by a nine-month period of waiting. Advent is about patient expectation, an annual reminder of the patient expectation with which the Christian awaits his Savior's second coming. 

I love seeing the naturalness of this anticipation of Christmas in my children, especially in their eager embrace of the little traditions we've been fostering. One of our traditions involves praying Compline together. Each evening we begin at the kitchen table, where one of the kids lights the candles on the Advent wreath. Then we sing a hymn and pray the psalms and readings of the Church's official night prayer together. Then one of the kids carries a candle--with help, certainly, if it's Cletus!--into the bedroom and carefully sets it on the dresser for our regular nightly rosary. The kids love the symbolism of every aspect of the prayer. They love hearing about the different colors. And the little pyros especially love the chance to light and blow out candles.

Family prayer during the Advent season

Last Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, which takes its name from the Mass introit and the traditional epistle for the third Sunday of Advent, both of which begin with the command "Gaudete," or "Rejoice!" This is the Sunday when the Advent wreath's pink-colored candle is lit, something we did on Saturday night since feasts, including Sundays, traditionally begin at sundown the night before. Cyprian and Clement listened intently as I explained how the pink candle sets this Sunday apart, reminding us to be joyful even in expectation of Jesus' birth. I also mentioned that the priest will also wear pink vestments (rose, technically). Sure enough, Fr. Phil Tighe at St. Catherine's processed in wearing pink vestments on Sunday morning, and Cyprian turned to me beaming the widest of smiles.

I love it when my kids pay attention to details like this. Traditions and symbols are so important because they etch themselves in our minds indelibly, imprinting in us the sounds, the scents, and the sights of a season in such a way tht we will never forget them. 

This evening marks the period of intensest expectation, the eight days, or octave, before Christmas. We celebrated the beginning of the octave by decorating our Christmas tree. It got pretty intense, as Cletus decided it was more effective to take ornaments off the tree in order to show them to us than simply to point them out. That said, we manage to muddle through, and now the house is aglow and the kids are abed.

Of course, Christmas requires other preparations. In the children's department, the boys already discovered a miniature basketball hoop that I had bought and hidden in the garage. Thence ensued a slightly shady tale about how difficult it is for Santa Claus to deliver all the presents the night of Christmas Eve, and how sometimes he has to drop some of the larger ones off ahead of time and send an elf along later on to wrap them. 

In the adult department, Rosemary has requested a sodastream machine. Being the cheapo that I am, I looked online and discovered there are easy ways to construct a homemade version. I put it together last night, and we're already enjoying our own homemade seltzer water. A little early to be enjoying Rosemary's Christmas present, you say? Well, if we can put up the tree and listen to Christmas music on the radio, I suppose a small foretaste of acqua frizzante won't hurt too much. After all, it's the third week of Advent, and we're called to be joyful in our expectation. As for the kids' basketball hoop? It's tucked just a little deeper back into the garage. 

Our homemade take on the sodastream machine

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