Mary Reed Newland The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season
reminds us of the richness of the season of Advent and how we can make it come alive for us and for our children!
Here’s a great story reminding us that God wants US this Advent, with all our personalities and our talents, with all our foibles and quirks. He loves us for who we are!
From The Year and Our Children:
“Next, there is the all-important matter of a birthday gift for the Light of the World. If there are to be gifts for others, there must first be a gift for Him. It is His birthday, not ours; and what kind of birthday is it when all the gifts go to the wrong people? What kind of gift would He like?
There is a story to tell at the beginning of Advent, about someone who had nothing to give. It illustrates best of all for children how the intangible is to God the most tangible, and makes entirely reasonable to them a scale of values one would suppose far over their heads.
The story is “The Juggler of our Lady.” It is as old as old, but each time it is told, it seems more beautiful.
It is about a monk who had no great talents, who could not illuminate manuscripts or write music or sing songs or paint pictures or compose prayers or do any of the dozens of things the other monks were preparing to do in honor of the Mother of God and her newborn Son.
So he made his way to the crypt below the main altar of his abbey church, and there before her statue, he humbly confessed that he had nothing to give. Unless … but of course. He had been a tumbler and a juggler in the world. Long ago. He had been a rather brilliant tumbler and juggler, if the truth were known. Might she like to see him juggle and tumble?
She was young and happy. She had laughed and clapped her hands. Surely her Child had. Perhaps he could tumble for them, all alone in secret? That is what he would do: give her the only thing he had to give. He would display his talent for the honor and glory of God and the entertainment of the Queen of Heaven.
So he removed his habit down to his tunic, and then he danced. And he leaped and he tumbled and he juggled in the most inspired fashion until finally he fell in a swoon at the feet of his Lady. And while he lay there limp and wet from his efforts, senseless as though he were dead, she stepped down from her pedestal and tenderly wiped the sweat from his brow and sweetly considered the love he had put into this performance for her and her dear Son’s sake.
And this happened every day.
Now, there was another monk there who began to notice that the tumbler came not to Matins and kept watch on him because “he blamed him greatly.”
So he followed closely the movements of the tumbler. One day he followed behind him and carefully hid himself in the recesses of the crypt and witnessed the whole performance. So profoundly was he impressed and inspired that he hied himself straight to the abbot, who prayed God would let him, too, witness this wonder of dancing and juggling for the Mother of God.
And he did see not only the dancing and the juggling and the leaping and the capers but also the Queen of Heaven, in the company of angels and archangels, come down and with her own white mantle fan her minstrel and minister to him with much sweetness.
When it came to pass that the abbot made it known to the minstrel that he had been seen – poor minstrel! He fell to his knees to beg forgiveness and plead with them not to send him out from the monastery.
Which, of course, they did not do but held him in high esteem until the day he died, and there about his bedside they saw the Mother of God and the angels of Heaven receive his soul and carry it to everlasting glory.
“Think you now that God would have prized his service if that he had not loved Him? By no means, however much he tumbled…. God asks not for gold or for silver but only for true love in the hearts of men, and this one loved God truly. And because of this, God prized his services.”
This, then, is the pattern for the gift: it must be a giving of self.
Our children usually give Him their desserts and treats during Advent except on Sundays, the two feasts, and the two birthdays that we celebrate with special festivities.
These days they give Him something else instead. They try to give more willingly than before their bumps and hurts, and (this really hurts) their will in such matters as being first, sitting by the window in the car, licking the bowl, doing the dishes without being asked, or doing homework first instead of last.
No funnies (especially no Sunday funnies) makes a beautiful gift for the funnies and comic-book addicts, and no radio for the radio fans. No TV is an excruciatingly difficult gift to make but more beautiful for its being difficult; and the Christ Child has a way of giving back more than you have given Him.
Ultimately we must insist on times of quiet, away from the manufactured entertainments of this world, in order to form the habit of recollection.
We are supposed to be contemplatives according to the capacity God has given us – which means that we see the world, ourselves, and all that is created in the right relation to God and that we think on these things often with love.
Whether we will end up “contemplatives” in cloisters or as contemplatives who are farmers, writers, bus drivers, policemen, dancers, whatever – in order to grow, we must be reaching constantly to God with our minds.
We need quiet for the very least of this, for the beginning of meditation.
Parents can begin the process for their children, especially in this wonderful season of Advent!”