"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

the true. the good. the beautiful. week 2.

“That his creatures should share
in his truth, goodness, and beauty --
this is the glory for which God created them.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319

As I noted last week, lately I have felt an increasing need to be more intentional about cultivating truth, goodness, and beauty in our home. To that end, I want to share with you what we are doing to bring that about, in the hopes that you might share with me the same.

The True: Feeding the Intellect
It is Advent (!)

It is becoming alarming to me how difficult it is to teach my children the difference between Advent and Christmas. Since the beginning of November, the malls have been decorated. Christmas music is playing. Christmas commercials are running. Cards and gifts are arriving. We are invited to Christmas parties. Come the 26th of December, the decorations will come down, the music will stop, discarded trees will be thrown to the curb. But the season of Christmas will just be beginning! I have been pounding it into the kids' heads that, despite what they see and hear all around them (except in church), IT IS NOT CHRISTMASTIME!!! IT IS ADVENT! A season of preparation. A season of waiting. A season of expectation.

We do everything we can to make Advent a distinct season in our home. We put a tree up on the first Sunday of Advent, but it is decorated with pink and purple lights and ribbon. We add our Jesse tree ornaments, one or two a day, after reading the appropriate Scripture story. On Christmas Eve, we take the Advent decorations off and put on multi-colored lights and Christmas ornaments. It is a lot of work, yes, but it makes the two seasons very distinct. In like manner, I refrain from putting out other Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. We decorate with snowmen and snowflakes and, on December 6, add our stockings and Saint Nicholas decorations, but the red and green "Merry Christmas" stuff doesn't come out until the end. And it stays out until Epiphany. Our stable is out, but Mary, Joseph, and Jesus remain out of sight. There is no star on our tree. We try and keep Christmas music to a minimum. Then during the Christmas season, we play our Christmas music. We stretch out our gift giving -- the children receive a gift on each of the twelve days of Christmas. They always get a new pair of pajamas and an ornament and a magazine subscription. Sometimes the gift is one for all four of them, like a game or a movie.

We are trying to teach the children the truth that Christmas is the season starting Christmas Day and lasting until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

The Good: Forming the Will
Sacrifices and Good Deeds

During Advent, we have a tradition of lining a manger with a piece of hay to represent each sacrifice offered, each good deed done, to prepare a place for the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day. I am always pleasantly surprised by how the children get into this tradition. Just today, they were exceptionally good at Mass, even reminding each other quietly to fold their hands or keep their rears off the pew when kneeling. They cleaned their room together and offered to clear one another's dishes. They volunteered to be last instead of first. And our manger already has a nice thin layer of hay.

The Beautiful: Inspiring the Affections
A Real Tree

Despite the fact we were unable to cut down our own tree this year, we were still able to pick out a live one from a nearby nursery. There is nothing like the fragrance of a real evergreen in our home!

(Link up in the comments if you'd like to join me.)

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