Hello, friends!  My apologies for such sporadic posting…’tis the season and I’ve been recovering from a nasty virus which has waylaid more than my writing! Meanwhile, here’s an article I wrote for Catholic Exchange last month, reposted here by request.  And, yes…it is autobiographical…that poor, sleeping princess was me…

Once upon a time there was a young woman seeking, always seeking the meaning of life.

For a long time, she thought she would find it in the bottom of a shopping bag. Or in a fancy restaurant. Or a beautifully decorated home.

She had married a wonderful man and had three beautiful daughters…still, she felt empty, and was constantly seeking to fill that void with something outside of herself. It never worked.

The coming Christmas Season only seemed to heighten this feeling, and so she worked feverishly, from the beginning of November, to fill the family home with the smells, sights and sounds of Christmas.

The artificial tree was assembled on November 1st and by the 5th was completely decorated. Each room was filled with images of Santa Claus and angels, jingle bells and reindeer…the entire home had become a reflection of the secularist view of the “holiday” season. There was a Nativity…in the corner of the living room on a small table and for the most part it was neglected. The Advent Wreath was placed on the dining room table, its candles only rarely lit, and by the time she realized that Advent had passed, she would notice that two of the candles had never even been lit. She just didn’t understand the necessity. There was so much to do to get ready for Christmas! Cookies to bake, shopping and wrapping. No time to pray, just time to work. Work, work, work. She sadly noticed that the Christmas tree and all the decorations had already gathered a layer of dust…things were beginning to look a bit worn, a bit shabby. It took all her energy to hold everything together for 60 days of festivity. The excitement had long ago vanished for her, but the show had to go on…

Christmas Day and the frenzy began. Midnight Mass had been skipped because the wrapping and baking wasn’t quite finished. She awoke the following morning, up hours before her girls to set up the video camera and placed herself, like the consummate actress she had become, in the appropriate location to experience her children’s joy. There was a flurry of excitement as mountains of gifts were unwrapped, pictures snapped, videos recorded…Mom and Dad both privately calculated with growing dismay just how much this “joy” would cost in the coming year.

By the New Year, the tree was down. The decorations were packed away and many of the toys and baubles had already lost their newness. The house, once again returned to the ordinary, seemed to reflect her heart. It was neat. It was tidy. Everything was where it should be…and yet something…something was horribly wrong.

SOMEONE, not SOMETHING, was missing…

She felt like a princess, kept prisoner in a very beautiful castle. Although she was surrounded by everything she loved and had everything she wanted, she one day realized that the castle was really a dungeon of her own making.

One day, the Prince of Peace came and kissed the poor, sleeping princess and awoke her from her slumber. He showed her a Manger. A Star. A Woman. He told her about a Promise and showed her the ultimate gift…the Wounds of Love’s making.

Her heart aflame, she disposed of her worldly approach to the Season of Wait. Her husband and children began to notice a subtle change. The prized Santa collection no longer dominated the mantel piece…the Nativity, empty and waiting for its special Guests, took center stage. The artificial tree was discarded in favor of a live tree, which would not be set up until just a very few days before the beginning…the BEGINNING of the Christmas Season, which is the Day, itself. The Advent Wreath was placed on the center of the coffee table, and after prayers, candle lighting and singing, it would be placed in a prominent window for the world passing by to see the Light…

She learned the O Antiphons and passed them onto her children. She and her husband filled shoes on the Feast of St. Nicholas. She baked Lussekatter and made a candle wreath for her little daughters on the Feast of St. Lucia. She, in an embrace of her family’s poverty, welcomed more and more children as precious gifts from God, and recognized the faces around the tree as more beautiful than any gift beneath it. The family eschewed a credit purchased Christmas, for a smaller, happier and paid for celebration. The family attended Mass on every possible day throughout the years, but most especially during the Season of Advent. And on Christmas Eve, in the hush and quiet of that Holy Night, the entire family journeyed to the Church, to hear the Sacred Liturgy and the Good News and…

“…good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
– Luke 2:10-12

The void had been filled. The emptiness replaced with fullness, with the peace that surpasses all understanding. She understands now, in a way that she could never understand before.

The Season is a gift to be unwrapped, slowly and patiently, savoring the Ultimate Gift that will be found…

…in the stillness and hush…

…of a humble manger, in the arms of a Mother, under the embrace of a Father…

…in the Gift of a Son…

Blessings,