“Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book.”
St. John Bosco
As we get ready to enter into a new liturgical year with the start of Advent, many Christians will strive to take up new habits to help them grow in holiness. One of these habits can be spiritual reading. With the coming of the Advent season, it’s appropriate to choose spiritual reading that coincides with the liturgical season.
Whether you already have the habit of spiritual reading or you are just getting started, here are three suggestions for spiritual reading for Advent.
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
“The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God. From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s redemption is mysteriously accomplished.”
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, 68.
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives is the last in the “Jesus of Nazareth” series written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI while he was still Cardinal Ratzinger. This book is a short, but beautiful reflection on the infancy narratives that we find in the Gospels.
The pope’s reflections take us deeper into the mysteries of Christ’s birth, making this a wonderful little book to read and pray with throughout the Advent season.
The Gospel of Luke
“And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
Often when people start looking for spiritual reading, the Bible is not the first thing that comes to mind. But the reality is, of all the spiritual reading available to us, Scripture is the best thing.
In particular, the Gospels. In the four Gospels we come to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. We hear about his life, what he did and what he said. But we also learn from the way he encountered people, the way he spoke to them and from his miracles.
The Gospel of Luke is always a great book to read during Advent. It’s actually perfect for Advent. The Gospel of Luke has 24 chapters, which means, if you start on the First Sunday of Advent, you’ll finish just in time for the celebration of Christmas. (There are even a few “oops” days built in for when the holiday craziness just gets to be too much and you miss a day!) Luke’s Gospel also contains the longest passages on the infancy narratives.
Reading one chapter of Luke’s Gospel is a beautiful way to spend the Advent season preparing for Christmas. This is even a great activity you can do with your children by reading a chapter a day as a family!
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise
“Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness.”
The Power of Silence, Thought 142.
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by Cardinal Robert Sarah is not an Advent book per se, but the topic of the book is very fitting for this time of year.
The holiday season tends to be a busy and noisy time. There is the hustle and bustle of family gatherings, Christmas shopping and traveling to see loved ones. But it’s important to remember what the Advent and Christmas seasons are about: they are about God, who came to the world as a little baby, in the secret and silence of a manger in Bethlehem.
If we want to learn to encounter God, we have to learn to be silent. In this book, Cardinal Sarah explores what silence is and why it’s significant in the life of a Christian. Although it’s quite long, the book is broken into short sections, making it easy to read small portions at a time and ponder on the things you’ve read.
Bonus Suggestion: Habits for Holiness
Habits for Holiness: Small Steps for Making Big Spiritual Progress, by Fr. Mark-Mary Ames, CFR, is a bonus suggestion because I haven’t read this book, so I can’t tell you anything about it. But if you’re looking for accountability to go with your spiritual reading this Advent, the Life Beyond the Chariot Podcast, by the St. Philip Institute will be reading and discussing this book throughout Advent.
If you’d like to follow along with the Life Beyond the Chariot Podcast, you can access the video link to the podcast here and the audio link here.
This year, strive to enter into the new liturgical season by diving into spiritual reading during Advent.
Originally published on November 19, 2021.