"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"
No, not that secular commercial holiday called Christmas (not to be confused with the Holy Day called Christmas) which is preceded by a month or so of mindless ditties about snow and "40% off overpriced stuff" sales. The most wonderful time of the year for the Rad Trad is Advent, the time during which we contemplate the unspeakable mystery of the Incarnation and the period before it, an epoch of hope for a salvation not then visible.
Advent is a time for thinking about sin, more so than Lent in my book. During Christ's 40 days in the desert and the days leading up to the Triduum He at least dwelt on earth and walked among men like us. The people of prior times had no such consolation. They had hope, or at least those aware of their own sins had hope. Without sin why yearn for redemption? Without falling why rise? Without darkness why seek light? When I sin I can drive a few miles to a parish that has daily Confession and take a "spiritual shower." What about the peoples of that time before Christ, whose difficulties are recalled during Advent? Advent seems to be the proper time for reflection on sin, on one's burning need for God's mercy in every moment of life, and on the great gift given to us at the end of it, the Incarnation. As St. Athanasius wrote, "God became man so that man might become God."
My challenge to readers is, if you do not already, to pray one major hour of the older Divine Office every day of Advent and through the Octave of Christmas. Oh no, that's a whole month! Exactly. You will appreciate Christmas all the more when it comes at the end of a month's rumination on sin and forgiveness with the Church. It will mean all the more when its mysteries permeate your life for an entire week. As always, I suggest Vespers or Lauds. It is customary during Advent and Lent to pray the Office of the Dead on Mondays in addition to the Office of the day. If you do not have the time for both (although Vespers/Lauds can easily be recited in seven minutes or so) I would pick the Office of the Dead on Mondays and the regular Office on weekdays just for the sake of some balance. However, if you do this do not pray the Office of the Dead on Monday December 23rd; instead pray the Office of the day so that you might have the seasonal "O" antiphon.
On a related note, please notice that the tab for the Officium Defunctorum is now gone as there will be no more opportunities to pray for the dead this month.
A happy feast of St. Andrew to all!