It is at times like these, particularly in seasons such as Advent and Lent, that I stand back in grateful awe of our Church's Liturgical Calendar. The ebb and flow of days and weeks, the significance of each Sunday, the timely Mass readings, the celebrations of saints, the faithful traditions: these among so many other wonderful details do so much to draw my soul in and keep me waiting in anticipation for Christ in each season. These times make me truly grateful for a Church that guides my reflections and contemplations and heightens each season for all that it is.
When I began my Catholic journey in college, I came as a rooted-in-Christ Evangelical, fully appreciative of Christ and his message of hope and salvation. I was saved by His Grace (still am) and enjoyed opportunities to exalt Him who loved me enough to die on the cross. As I began to regularly attend the 4:30 Mass on Sundays in the University Chapel (seen in the background of our blog) with my roommate, I slowly began to realize that Catholics, too, loved Jesus as much as I did. You see, this was a surprise to me, who had grown in my faith thinking that Catholics didn't believe in Christ. (So many misconceptions out there!) My subtle realizations turned into a vast appreciation for the Church and all it had to offer. The Mass for me was mesmerizing--holy, pure, and Christ-centered. The Catholic Church helped me take my Christian faith to an even deeper, more meaningful level at a time when I needed to do so.
My first Lenten season offered a new appreciation for Christ's forty days in the desert, a time of temptation and testing. I had "given things up" for Lent in the past, but never before with such reflection and contemplative prayer. My growing Catholic faith helped me put it all into greater perspective, with an increased appreciation for the season. Later that year, during my first Catholic celebration of Advent, GG (my then crush and now husband) presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in a dark, rich purple, "for this time of Advent." How utterly gorgeous--to have hues of color to represent each season. The Church was reaching out to me once again, allowing me a deeper sense of the season.
"Silent Night" plays in the background as I type. It is the same "Silent Night" I remember singing as we lit candles in my beloved childhood church at the end of our Christmas Eve service. It was my absolute favorite part of the Christmas celebration... This year, the playing of "Silent Night" brings tears to my adult face. With it comes a serene appreciation for this beautiful season of Advent and all that it holds, all that it promises. Thank you, Father, for sending your Son. Thank you, Jesus, for taking on human flesh. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for my Christian brothers and sisters who helped me to hear and respond to your Gospel as a youth. Thank you, Lord God, for your Holy Catholic Church, which preserves and enriches my ongoing faith journey.