Yesterday, after work, I tidied up the house and got out the red cloths and candles for the icon corner. I put away the familiar white cloth behind the crucifix, and I folded the fancier cloth that sits on the shelf, under our candles and icons and holy cards. When our small red candle is lit for prayers, the red flame stands out against the golden icons.
I pulled our Star of David out from the shelf and unwrapped the six red candles I had saved from last year and set it up on our table. I placed our prayer booklets for meals, with matches and a candle snuffer, on the table next to the candles.
I unpacked the Advent Calendar and hung it on our bedroom door.
Now I'm ready to wait for Christ.
Menu planning for the next 6 weeks will be a bit different. See, part of our Christmas preparation is to fast, and I need to factor that in to my meal schedule. Oatmeal for breakfast, very small lunch or snack, modest dinner, no desserts. I know that some people may think fasting is "old fashioned" and "unnecessary" but I firmly believe in its benefits (spiritually as well as physically). By abstaining from certain foods for certain reasons, our bodies remind us to prepare for Christmas, to pray, and to give thanks for the gifts we have. Abstinence makes the heart grow (fonder, more charitable, holier). Also, how much more feast-ive is the Christmas day feast when the fast is broken and the much-missed foods return to the table! If one can fast from good things, one is free from slavery to them, and thus, closer to God.
Over the next several weeks, I will decorate our house for Christmas. We will put up our nativity sets, hang lights and Christmas pictures, find a tree, and decorate it beautifully. We will hear readings at Church each day that increase the anticipation and excitement with a voice crying out in the wilderness, "Ready the Way of the Lord!" The house will be full of goodies which only make an appearance at Christmastime (cunningly saved in winter tins to await the end of the fast). We will play Christmas music and wrap presents and visit family and warm our hearts and souls and bodies against the cold with all manner of Good Things.
But for now, it is just the beginning of the journey toward Christmas, and we enter the wilderness for 40 days to make ourselves ready.
Last night we had lentil and sweet potato soup with a quick wheat bread (recipe from my birthday cookbook).
Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
2 c. red or brown lentils (or combination) soaked overnight
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 onions (or 3 heaping T dried onion)
2 qt water (or combination water and broth of choice)
1/2 tsp paprika
juice of one lemon
dash cayenne pepper (add this after soup is done simmering! if it boils, it intensifies!)
salt to taste
Combine water [and stock], lentils, sweet potatoes, and onions in soup pot and simmer until veggies are tender.
Blend soup until smooth.
Add seasonings to taste.
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread
adapted from: From a Monastery Kitchen
1 c flour
2 heaping c coarse-ground whole wheat flour
2 T sesame seeds
2 T toasted wheat germ (I used milled flax seeds)
2 T rye meal
1 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar
1 heaping tsp baking soda
2 c buttermilk (dairy allergy/vegan? use milk substitute + 2 T vinegar)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients together. Add 2 c buttermilk and stir until just combined (adding water if mixture is too dry--it should have the consistency of banana bread batter).
Grease bread pan. Pour mixture into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Cool (or not) and serve.