Two weeks into Advent and the oft-repeated words of George Santayana are—again—coming true. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!”.
While the Scriptures continuously reinforce the theme the preparation—“The days are coming” (Jeremiah 33), “Be vigilant” (Luke 21), “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3)—I find my days and nights are filled with Christmas, not Advent. Christmas cookies. Christmas decorations. Christmas dinner. Inevitably each year by the end of Advent, I look back and say, “Next year, I’m going to focus on Advent, not Christmas.”
Why is that? Because I forget. So very easily. By the time Christ the King Sunday rolls around, I’ve forgotten my post-Advent promise to myself to do better. By the time Thanksgiving is over, I’m immersed (literally!) in baking ingredients. By the time I open my mouth to start singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” I’ve already worked my way through half of the Christmas songbook. I typically allow myself to be guided by a self-selected, though not helpful set of Christmasy words and pictures that includes the Hallmark Channel and our local radio station.
Because I forget, I’ve doomed myself to this busy, yet somewhat unfulfilling repeat episode of life and faith. Advent should give me and all of us hope, even though Advent is almost halfway over. There is still time to recover and remember our collective history and change directions.
This week’s collection of titles from CatholicsRead prompts us to remember our past and to move forward, rather than to blindly repeat it.
If you are determined to change your own history with Advent right now, pick up a copy of Loyola Press’ Sacred Space for Advent and the Christmas Season 2021-22. Create a sense of sacred space during each remaining day of Advent and Christmas with daily Scriptures and reflections.
Remembering who we are, where we have come, what we are, and what we do can start with revisiting our history. Ave Maria Press has two books, one focused on the past, the other on the present.
The Church and the Dark Ages (430-1027) is an engaging history book. Phillip Campbell highlights both the political and cultural tumult of the era, as well as personalities like Charlemagne, St. Gregory, and St. Brigid who shaped this period of incredible transformation. Creation: A Catholic’s Guide to God and the Universe delves into the intersection of faith and science in our current time. Author Christopher T. Baglow provides probing yet lively–and often-humorous–answers to the foundational questions of human existence.
(If Creation resonates with you, consider adding RENEW International’s Creation at the Crossroads, an individual or small-group faith-sharing resource containing twelve sessions on Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si.)
Massimo Borghesi’s Catholic Discordance, set to release next week from Liturgical Press, is a much-needed “deep dive” into the origins of today’s Catholic neoconservative movement and its clash with Pope Franc’s understanding of the Church as a “field hospital” for a fragmented world.
The second set of books offers us tools to learn the lessons of history and move forward. What better source of our memory and history is there than Scripture? If you have ever wanted to adopt the practice of reading through the Bible in a calendar year, Ascension’s The Bible in a Year Companion, based on the award-winning podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz, is the perfect resource to get you started.
If Scripture is your thing, another option for the new liturgical year just begun is Daily Bread of the Word: Reflections on the Weekday Lectionary Readings from Liturgy Training Publications. While Sunday’s readings can be that glorious feast, the daily readings can be that steady, nourishing diet for the hungry soul.
For a more visual guide into the new year, Magnificat’s 2022 Art Calendar includes masterpieces from the history of sacred art for you to meditate upon, along with a short verse from the Gospel of the day for your to carry in year heart.
As a practice, Eucharistic Adoration has grown in the past couple of decades. Catholic Book Publishing presents Eucharistic Adoration to help you better explore the deep spirituality, faith, and love of the Eucharist that can leave you breathless.
Even if Christmas has its hold on you for now, consider incorporating any of these works as one of your New Year’s resolutions. It’s never too late to change directions.