Most years I’m eager to plan for Advent or Lent, to bring my own creative energy to these ancient traditions.
This year, though, that doesn’t feel quite right. It seems a better course of action would be to talking these things through with a spiritual director instead of my usual planning by brainstorming in casual conversation or on social media, with a bit of prayer.
If you shared this insight with me I’d wonder if you were depressed or perhaps unusually busy, but for me, this year, I think this instinct comes from my religious practice being in an unusually good place, and wanting my seasonal devotions to have an integrity and depth that’s going to require a wisdom and perspective other than my own.
So this Advent, I’ll be preparing for Christmas by lighting candles and saying seasonal prayers, while keeping my eyes open for the right spiritual director, who’s sure to turn up sooner than I expect. That’s how these things tend to work out.
I had a humorous conversation on this topic with a friend the other day, regarding giving up things for Lent or Advent. If we choose what to give up, that’s not a bad thing, but there is nearly always vanity in it. Maybe we choose something heroic, so that we feel good about how tough we are. Maybe we choose something too easy, because we don’t want to feel like a failure. Either way we are protecting our pride. On the other hand, if one asks ones confessor or director what to give up, one is assigned something that may or may not be pleasing. One may think it too hard, or too easy. Being given easy tasks or renunciations is very difficult for me, for instance, because I like people to think I’m tough and capable and good at things. I want the hard task to show off how I can do it.