Preparing Our Hearts for Advent

by Anna Lizak

Advent is always a special, but different time of year for me. I often find it hard to prepare my heart the way I know I should as we prepare for Christmas and the birth of Jesus. As a student, Advent always falls during a challenging time in the semester when there are final assignments, papers and exams to worry about. I wonder to myself, how can I possibly manage all of this and still take time to read scripture, reflect and pray? To be completely honest, I get so caught up in the busyness of just getting through the rest of the semester to Christmas break, that most Advents I end up wishing that I did better.

As I sat in church today, it hit me that Advent was coming up much closer than I thought, and I was nowhere near ready. In the Ukrainian Catholic tradition, the advent season starts 6 weeks before Christmas, which we call St. Philip’s Fast. Instead of the four candles in the Roman Catholic Tradition, we have 6 different coloured candles for each week of St. Philip’s fast. Each Sunday, we do a reading and a new candle is lit (see resource below for what each colour means).

So began my yearly cycle of thoughts on how to once again prepare myself and my heart for Jesus this Advent. I was already feeling the doubts and hopelessness crawl in until I heard Father’s next words about Saints Philip and Bartholomew. The lives of these saints and their story are truly remarkable. Philip and Bartholomew were preaching in the city of Hieropolis, while people were worshipping an enormous serpent in a pagan temple. Through the power of prayer in compassion for the people, they killed the serpent and healed many from snake bites. Among those healed was the wife of the city governor Amphipatos. Upon hearing that his wife had accepted Christianity, he was furious and ordered Sts. Philip and Bartholomew to be crucified. The earth began to shake and the people were terrified. Even in extreme pain and suffering, St. Philip prayed to God and asked Him to forgive the people and save them from the earthquake. Seeing this, the people started shouting and demanding that the two apostles be taken down from the cross. Bartholomew survived, but Philip did not. St. Philip did an extraordinary thing: he showed compassion to the very end. He loved his enemies and prayed for them, even in the deepest and most terrifying adversity.

So it struck me: being a compassionate Christian is not a time or a season where we get to say, I’m not ready!! The time for being compassionate and loving our neighbours is now and every day. After listening to Father’s homily, I realized that being compassionate to the very end is something I want to focus on this Advent. To quiet my heart and ask him to guide me to be a compassionate student, daughter, and friend. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the rush and busyness of getting through the last parts of the semester. But I encourage you, take some time in prayer or Adoration, and just ask God what he wants you to focus on this Advent. Ask Him to give you the time to slow down, pause and reflect on how you can prepare yourself. Ask Him to help you not lose sight of what is important – even while all the Christmas shopping and music begins. Maybe ask Him to be like Saints Philip and Bartholomew, who despite all adversity, had hearts overflowing with compassion for others.






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