In recent years theologians and liturgists have been thinking and speaking about the idea of “Celtic Advent” which, in length, is similar to the 40-day Lenten season. Celtic Advent is a significant preparation for the Incarnation. I invite you to join us in exploring this by reading from a daily meditation book by David Cole (in paperback or from Kindle) and, when the Spirit moves you, to reflect together online about it. The daily reflections consist of an engaging opening thought, something brief to contemplate, a reading, and a prayer. The book can be obtained through the Hopkins Bookshop (or Amazon if you prefer). Celtic Advent begins onNovember 15. I hope you will find this idea intriguing and helpful for your spiritual journey this Advent and join us!
Amma Kim for Anam Cara Sojourners For directions for the online group, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the introduction to this practice and the book:
Christmas! For many of us, Christmas is a wonderful time of year where we see those we love and share in jollity, mirth and the giving and receiving of gifts. (We may even venture out to church!) All this is right and good; God is a God of fun and celebrations! When God first spoke to the Hebrew people after the exodus about becoming a people of YHWH, there were over a dozen feasts and celebrations as part of it. More have been added over the years, such as Hanukkah, the Jewish winter festival. Feast, celebration, joy and happiness have always been a part of God’s plan for the people who make up the body of followers and believers.
However, when we read the Old Testament, it is clear that the feasts didn’t just happen; there was a time of preparation beforehand as well. In the time leading up to the feast or celebration where the people would get themselves ready to celebrate, they would prepare themselves inwardly as well as outwardly for the focus of the feast. This is exactly what Advent is. The word itself comes from the Latin adventus, which means ‘arrival’. Like the arrival of any other baby, the waiting for the arrival of the birth of Jesus was not, and is not, idle anticipation, but active waiting.
Advent has two traditional start dates, depending upon your understanding. There is the traditional church date of the fourth Sunday before Christmas; and then there is the first day of December, when you open the first door of your Advent calendar. But in the ancient church of Britain and Ireland (commonly referred to today as the ‘Celtic church’) there was another date – 15 November, the eve of 15 November in fact. The reason for this date was because 15 November is 40 days before Christmas (including Sundays, unlike the 40 days of Lent), and the Celtic church believed in the same significance of numbers as the Jewish faith. The Celtic church referred to the period of Advent as the ‘lesser Lent’ and believed that the period for preparation was important, just like the preparation of Lent leading up to Easter.
It is traditionally believed that the Celtic church, during this 40-day Advent, focused on what is called the three comings of Christ. The first was the incarnation, which is what Christmas is all about; the second was the coming of Christ into our own selves. This was not just a single event for the Celtic Christians, what the modern church may call ‘conversion’ or ‘becoming a Christian’, but it was a continual activity in every part of our lives on a daily basis. It might even need to happen multiple times a day, and in every decision that is made. This isn’t about eternal salvation; this is about Christ being intrinsically involved and interwoven in every part and aspect of our everyday lives. The third coming is the return of Christ at the end of all things as we know it, as described in the book of Revelation.
Over the 40 days of Celtic Advent, following in the tradition of the ancient Celtic church, we will discover what it means to prepare for the coming of the Christ by focusing upon the three comings of Christ.
We will begin with five days looking at the concept of Advent; then we will spend ten days looking at the coming of Christ incarnate as a baby, as described in the gospels. After that, we will spend ten days on the coming of Christ into our lives, both the first time it happened and the continual need for it to happen throughout our lives. Moving from here, we will look at the coming of Christ at the end, what Christians often call ‘the second coming’. Finally, we will spend five days looking at Christmas itself as a celebration.
As Celtic Advent began on the evening of 15 November, it is suggested that you use these devotions in this book in the evenings. This means that your first reading will be on the evening of 15 November and your final reading will consequently be on the evening of 24 December, leading you right into the night vigil or midnight mass before Christmas Day.
As you journey through this book over Advent in the lead-up to Christmas, I pray that you will be drawn closer to God and that, consequently, as it says in James 4:8, God will draw close to you, so that this Christmas you will have a close encounter with Christ and know the joy of God in the celebrations which surround us all.