"Prepare the way of the Lord" 

My mother used to say that the days of Advent were the days of building a golden stairway that would lead us to a star, the star of Bethlehem. And this, in turn, would lead us straight to the Christ Child! In my youth, that stairway was real. Each day I could see and touch each step of it as it was being built. The first steps were made of cleanliness. We began cleaning from the inside out. First, there was the Advent fast: to clean the soul of all its past faults and sins, to make penance for them, to wash it with tears, and the heart with contrition. As in Lent, all meat, milk products, eggs, and sugar disappeared from the family table, to be replaced with fish, vegetables, and honey. The parish church became the focal point of our daily lives ....

    But there was a difference. In Lent, the Russian women donned dark garments, took off their jewelry, and allowed no music in the house .... Not so in Advent. On the contrary, there was talk of new clothing. There was a flurry of buying materials and of sewing. There was much music in the air, and the practicing of hymns and songs to be sung on the Holy Night. Even the fast itself was one of joyous expectation. Masses, Communions, confessions, and evening services in the church followed one another closely throughout the days. To accompany these inner preparations, outward cleaning and scrubbing went on feverishly all about the house, with everyone humming snatches from ageless tunes. The first to be cleaned and polished were the icons, which shone and became alive under the flickering shadows of the votive lamps-red and blue and green. To my childish eyes, they were the forerunners of the lovely candles on the Christmas tree.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty (┼1985} was born in Russia and founded the Madonna House Apostolate in Combermere, Canada, which today serves the poor in six countries.        


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Updated: December 10, 2023

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