Finding joy in Advent

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Eighty women gathered to hear featured speakers Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale, and freelance writer Elizabeth Foss offer guidance for the coming Advent season Nov. 7 at St. Mark Church in Vienna. "Finding Joy in Advent," co-sponsored by Living Advent and the Arlington Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, was aimed at inspiring women and families to engage more fully in the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Father Fisher gave the audience an overview of the history of the church calendar. He noted that the calendar's beginning was hidden, due to religious persecutions. Easter was the anchor of the early church calendar, and the focus on preparation for Easter was the season of Lent.

As pilgrims began to seek details on the life of Christ and the liturgical celebration of the Savior's birth was fixed, the season of Advent took shape. Following the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, Christians were free to practice their faith, and the church calendar was published openly.

The great themes of Advent, light and darkness, were brought out. Christ the Light comes into the world, a world darkened by sin. God reveals His glory through light, the light of the Incarnation. The church's liturgical prayer focuses on the image of light as it builds through the season in the Liturgy of the Hours and the "O Antiphons," reaching its great illumination with the birth of the Savior.

In the closing talk, Elizabeth Foss described the ups and downs of motherhood. Recalling a particularly challenging Advent and Christmas a few years ago, she stressed the importance of self-care, starting with adequate sleep, healthy eating and exercise - not always easy for mothers.

Foss described the habits of healthy living, then turned to the prayer life of the church. She explained how the Liturgy of the Hours is key to balancing one's spiritual life with daily life and offered a model of how to do it. She described how she sets the alarms on her cell phone to correspond with the hours of prayer, walking the audience through a typical day. Establishing this rhythm of the hours is a source of grace for her to help with the demands of the seasons. For those who prefer a shorter version of the Liturgy of Hours, she suggested The Christian Book of Prayer or the Magnificat.

Rooney is the coordinator of Living Advent 2015.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015