Preparing Your Heart for Christ: A Guide to Advent Devotions

“Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world.”

Pope Francis, 2018 Angelus

Advent begins the Church’s liturgical year and is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to the second coming of Christ at the end of time, and to the anniversary of Our Lord’s birth on Christmas, the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Advent is a time when the Church calls us to be alert and ready, not burdened with the cares of this world (Lk 21:34-36). There is an element of penance in the sense of preparing, quieting and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas.

The Church offers many Advent devotions to Christians as we seek to deepen our faith, and to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. At The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, we will be celebrating a special Rorate Mass on December 16. All are welcome.

You can click this link to learn more about the Mothers’ Shrine’s Rorate Mass on December 16.

The Rorate Mass is a traditional Advent Mass celebrated before dawn. The Mass is named after the opening antiphon, “Rorate caeli desuper” (Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above), which is from the book of Isaiah (45:8). The Rorate Mass is a beautiful and solemn celebration with candles, chants and incense.

The Rorate Mass is a powerful way to prepare your heart for Christ. The early morning hour and the darkness of the church create a sense of anticipation and longing for the coming of Christ. The candles and the incense add to the mystical and reverent atmosphere. The chants, which are sung in Latin, are hauntingly beautiful and add to the sense of reverence and solemnity.

In addition to the Rorate Mass, our community at Mothers’ Shrine will celebrate Advent in all the ways offered to us by our Church. If you don’t already use some of these devotions or traditions, please consider them as you enter into the holy season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ and celebrate His birth!

As you can see, Advent is an important season in the Catholic Church, as it marks the beginning of the liturgical year and prepares us for the celebration of Christmas. You cannot have Christmas without Advent! Here are some ways you can celebrate the season of Advent, enriching your preparation for Christmas:

  1. Mass: As Advent is a time when Catholics are called to a heightened awareness of our faith, the daily Mass can be a time of great spiritual preparation.
  2. Lectio Divina: Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of prayerful reading of Scripture. During Advent, many Catholics will use this practice to reflect on the Scriptures proclaimed during Advent and prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ. For those unable to participate in daily Mass, this is a wonderful way to remain in prayer with all the faithful in this holy season. You can find the daily readings of the Church here.
  3. The Liturgy of the Hours: The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God (Opus Dei), is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. During Advent, the prayers focus on the Christian virtues of hope, peace, joy, and love.
  4. Penance services: Catholic parishes usually provide opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Penance, during Advent.
  5. Advent Retreats: Catholic parishes and retreat centers often offer Advent retreats, which provide a time of spiritual reflection and renewal during the busy holiday season.
  6. Advent Wreath: The Advent wreath is a traditional Catholic devotion that involves lighting four candles, one for each week of Advent, along with prayers and reflections from Scripture. Each candle represents a Christian virtue, which are also expressed in the Scripture readings for the Sundays of Advent: hope, peace, joy and love.
  7. Novenas: Novenas are nine-day prayer vigils. During Advent, many Catholics will pray a novena to prepare their hearts for the coming of Christ. Some cultures incorporate other acts of faith, such as processions, special Masses, re-enactments of the Scripture narratives about the birth of Christ, and other activities into these novenas. La Posadas, Simbang Gabi, the St. Andrew Novena and the Novena of Aguinaldos are cultural adaptations of Christmas novenas, many focusing on the final days of Advent, Dec. 16-24.
  8. The O Antiphons: The final days of Advent, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24, we focus on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord at Christmas. In particular, the “O” Antiphons are sung during this period and have been by the Church since at least the eighth century. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but of present ones as well.
  9. The Jesse Tree: The Jesse Tree is a symbolic representation of Jesus’ family tree, tracing his lineage back to Jesse, the father of King David. Each day of Advent, a new ornament is added to the tree, each one representing a different person or event in salvation history.
  10. Advent Calendars: Advent calendars are a popular way to count down the days until Christmas. Many Catholic families use Advent calendars that include daily Scripture readings, prayers, or activities.

In conclusion, Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ. Advent devotions are a way to connect with God, to deepen your faith, and to prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. The Rorate Mass is a beautiful and powerful Advent devotion celebrated before dawn. The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, is hosting a Rorate Mass on Dec 16, open to all. Participating in Advent devotions is a beautiful way to prepare your heart for Christ and to deepen your faith. We do hope to see you there if you are in the area.