The Church has taught me that Advent is meant to be like a mini-Lent. So there is a focus on sacrifice, giving something up. And for us humans, that typically points us first towards food. Why the spotlight on food? It’s the simple basic thing that we know we need to stay healthy every single day, multiple times a day. If we forget, our stomachs will remind us. That trigger is hard-wired right in to our DNA.
But we are not just physical beings. We are body plus soul, with the soul prioritized above the body. This is what sets us apart and above all other creatures on earth. So what is necessary to the body is merely a springboard for what is vital to the soul.
The other thing I’ve learned about sacrifice is that it doesn’t only mean giving something up. It typically means trading something in. When you give something up, you make room for something better. So especially during mini-Lent, it’s not just about what I’m not eating. It’s about practicing right nutrition. Making changes to my physical diet springboards to a better spiritual diet.
No greasy self-pity makes room for gratitude.
No spicy impatience and irritability makes room for simple gentleness.
No processed, microwaved or fast headlines makes room for giving your full attention to serving up wholesome conversation.
No rotten, uncharitable words makes room for loving kindness.
When I don’t eat those foods during Advent or Lent, my body starts feeling so much better. And when my body feels better, I have so much more room for my soul to act better. And when everything starts feeling so much better, I want to keep going. We all know crash dieting doesn’t work. This has to be a steady diet. A lifestyle change. Every meal, every day.
I wondered what simple spiritual food I could start with today, then I opened my missal to find today’s Mass readings. The liturgy of the Church has prepared me for everything I need – today is the Feast of St. Andrew. He was the first disciple to know Jesus. And there is a beautiful Christmas Novena that starts on his feast day. It’s prayed 15 times a day until Christmas, helping us focus steadily in on right spiritual nutrition. So I’ll trade in 15 headlines or social media posts every day in exchange for the time it takes to say this simple prayer, and I’m already feeling better.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.