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On Missing Advent Traditions, and the Immaculate Conception

December 8, AD 2012 2 Comments

I miss Advent.  Yes, you read that right: I miss Advent.  And yet…I’m a practicing Catholic, I celebrate Advent; if anything, now that I’m no longer in college, I have more of an opportunity to actually live Advent than I did when my life was controlled by classes, papers, and Finals. Yet, still, I miss Advent.

What do I miss about it?

I miss the wonder.  The childlike joy, wonder, and awe of setting out the manger scene on our long side-table, and then having Mary and Joseph “walk to Bethlehem” until they got to the manger at the other end of the table.  The anticipation of the Advent wreath: hunting for random greenery in our front yard, tying it (very sloppily) to our plain gold Advent wreath, and putting candles (rarely new; more often than not, the 3-inch stubs, lined with drippings, from Advents past) in it.  Singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Listening to Christmas music…yes, even in Advent.  Stringing up lights in the window in my bedroom, and putting a set of electric orange “candles” in the front window.

I miss all of that.  This year, the only Advent candles so far have been the ones at Mass. My roommate bought candles, but we don’t yet have an Advent wreath.  I went to 6 stores the day before Advent began in a fruitless search for candleholders for taper candles.

I’m trying to compensate by listening to Advent music (“Rorate Coeli,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Creator Alme Siderum,” “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” etc), reading all the wonderful blog posts people write about Advent (check out Bonnie Engstrom’s Advent Series at “A Knotted Life”).  And if the U.S. Postal Service would get their act together, I would have a book to read: Advent and Christmas with Fulton J. Sheen.

I’m not sure how to get that childlike joy, and wonder, and awe back.  I know the traditions can help, because we’re symbolic people. We need symbols, physical manifestations of spiritual realities, to remind us of those spiritual realities, but what does one do when some of those traditions aren’t feasible or accessible?

I was thinking about all this, and about the fact that today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Advent is a time of preparation. The first Advent, 2,000+ years ago, was a time of preparation for Mary.  Her Immaculate Conception was her ultimate preparation for Christmas, for her role as the Mother of God.  I really have no room to talk when it comes to devotion to Mary (if I say a decade of the Rosary twice a week, that’s a good week), but I do know that Our Blessed Mother is the person who was most prepared for the Birth of her Son.  Her Immaculate Conception, as all of her graces, was given to her in view of the fact that she would be the Mother of God.  She was conceived without Original Sin in order that her Son, the Word Made Flesh, would be born without sin.  Since she was the most prepared for the Birth of her Son, she is the ideal person to whom we should turn if we wish to properly prepare for Christmas.

So, on this Feast of this Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother (patroness of the United States), even if our Advent candles aren’t lit, and our Advent books haven’t arrived, and we feel like Advent is slipping away from us after a mere week–let us turn to Our Blessed Mother, whose entire life was a preparation for the coming of the God-Man, and ask her to help us to prepare our hearts for the Birth of her Son.  Let us ask her to ask her Son to give us the grace to turn the Internet or the music off, in order to “tune in” our hearts to the quiet whimpers of her Baby.

And because I love Fulton Sheen and the 33rd anniversary of his death is the day after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, let’s end with the poem by Mary Dixon Thayer that Sheen so loved:

Lovely Lady dressed in blue–
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
Gently on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?

Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things–
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels’ wings

Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me–for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue–
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
And you know the way.

(Poem found at

 God Love y’all!

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About the Author:

Emily C. Hurt is a 2012 graduate of Christendom College with a Bachelor's in Theology. She wrote her Senior Thesis on "Redemptive Suffering in the Theology of the Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen." When she's not job-hunting or reading Fulton Sheen, she writes about the writings of Fulton Sheen, redemptive suffering, and her alma mater at her blog,