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Providence prayers for the journey of Advent

advent-wreathFollowing in the footsteps of Saint Mother Theodore, our other five foundresses, and the Providence communities of each era, we are called to observe the life-giving season of Advent. Can you picture these Providence communities lighting candles, singing, and telling the story of the coming of God in history? Let us unite with them and all who share the charism of Providence as we keep Advent.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, bring peace to Syria and Israel.
All mourn in lonely exile here, until a Liberator is near.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Our freedom is at hand.
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

Advent means coming (Latin adventus; Greek parousia): the coming of Emmanuel (God-with-us) into our lives, the coming of Providence into the universe. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Dec. 25, which in 2014 is today, Nov. 30. This start of the Christian liturgical year invites us to prepare for the coming of light, liberation, and love into the universe. It challenges us to stay awake to Providence in our midst and to witness to this relationship.

To keep this prayerful time many people make an Advent wreath, a circle of evergreens with four candles: three purple for royalty and reconciliation, one rose for rejoicing, and some add a white one for Christmas. To mark the first week of Advent we light one purple candle; the second week the first purple candle plus a second purple one; the third week the first and second purples plus the rose for Gaudate / rejoicing; the fourth week all four candles. I put this Advent wreath on our dining table so my family can light it for meal times. When we do so, we feel united with Providence communities lighting candles to keep Advent during the dark December nights in Indiana. Light your Advent candles in solidarity with all who seek peace.

Week One / Preparation / “Stay awake” (Mark 13.37): Mother Theodore prepared to leave France and travel to Indiana. She waited for a new home to be built in the woods. She prepared to establish a community. She challenged her community to respond to the urgent signs of the times and brought fresh insight to her waiting. She modeled for us how to wait and stay awake: “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.”

Ponder: What fresh insights do I have as I wait and stay awake? What journey is ahead of me? How am I putting myself gently into the hands of Providence?

Come now, dear friends, for Advent time is here. It’s time to cast out doubt and crippling fear.
For presently, before our wondering eyes, this season will bring forth its own surprise.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Our freedom is at hand.
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

Week Two / Light / “Comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1): Mother Theodore held onto her visions of Providence and comforted her sisters even in the midst of severe setbacks: storms at sea, fires that destroyed their barns and harvest, increasingly ill health, excommunication by a bishop, and deaths of loved ones. She reminded her Providence community: “You will see many things in new lights if you give the Holy Spirit free access to your minds and hearts.”

Ponder: What are my visions? How do I comfort others and myself in the midst of setbacks? How am I partnering with the Holy Spirit?

O come, O come, O Advent Light and show, the way to peace that each of us must know.
Make envy, strife, and world quarrels cease, fill every thing with Wisdom’s gift of peace.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Our freedom is at hand.
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

Week Three / Liberation / “The spirit of God is with me” (Isaiah 61:1): Providence, the spirit of God, was with Mother Theodore and her community. They were chosen by Mother Mary and the revered Bishop of Le Mans, Jean-Baptiste Bouvier, in Ruillé-sur-Loir, France to accept the invitation of Bishop de la Hailandière of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana to bring good news to the oppressed by opening missions there. They set captives free by educating youth. They healed the brokenhearted and comforted the sick by setting up a pharmacy. They worked to transform the existing social order of their day by opening the Academy for girls and women. Mother Theodore advised: “We are not called upon to do all the good possible, but only that which we can do.”

Ponder: How am I partnering with Providence? Where is Providence leading me to see new life, meet new challenges, take new paths in my faith journey? How do I bring good news to others?

Let us together ponder how we may, initiate a new and better day.
In numbers we are strong, our faith is great; No more delay lest justice come too late.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Our freedom is at hand.
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

Week Four / Love / “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37): Mother Theodore and the other Providence foundresses placed themselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary the moment they arrived at the Woods and entered the chapel. They welcomed God’s presence in their lives with the same spirit as Mary. They were wise women whose gifts of love, mercy, and justice rooted their Providence community for decades to come. “How bountifully God provides for all our wants — I would even say for our pleasures.”

Ponder: What is my relationship with Mary? What are the unexpected arrivals of grace in my life? How do I share gifts of love, mercy, and justice?

O come, O Wisdom, sister of us all, prepare our ears to hear a wondrous call.
To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in your ways to go.
Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Our freedom is at hand.
The Dawn of Justice shines upon the land.

The O Antiphons, prayerful jewels inspired by Isaiah, close the Advent season. They are sung each of the seven days before Christmas. Let us feel our union as we pray them together.

O Wisdom, Mary’s Child! Come and teach us the way. Come, Providence, Come.
O Adonai! Come and free us of fear. Viens, Providence, Viens.
O Root of Jesse! Come and uproot our hurts and hatreds. 來吧,普羅維登斯,來
O Key of David and Ruth! Come and open what hides the truth. Ven, Providencia, Ven.
O Radiant Dawn! Come and shine on those who long for peace. Komm, Providence, Kommen.
O Reconciler of Nations! Come and bring an end to envy, strife, and world wars. Приходите, Провиденс, приходите
O Emmanuel! Come and be with us. Come, Providence, Come.

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Diann Neu

Diann L. Neu is a Providence Associate who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a former Sister of Providence, and co-founder and co-director with Mary E. Hunt of WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, http://www.waterwomensalliance.org

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1 Comment

  1. Phyllis Harman on December 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks Diann, really insightful and complete reflection.
    Gratefully,
    Phyllis

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