Though I haven’t actively practiced my traditional religion since my divorce, many of its liturgical traditions offer structure and beauty to the year. Advent is one such liturgical season, and I enjoy lighting the candles of the Advent wreath and waiting in joyful hope during this season even as my spiritual practices are not limited to these Christian traditions.
A post from a friend (and former choir director) today reminded me that Advent 2014 begins on Sunday November 30 this year. As I thought about Advent and its meaning, it occurred to me that this season offers an opportunity for divorced moms, especially newly divorced moms, to prepare and become receptive to a better life after divorce. Here’s how.
According to the website Christianity.com, the word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Though most people think of Advent as the time before Christmas and the birth of Jesus, it also symbolizes the church and its people as they wait and hope in joyful expectation of the second coming of Christ and his peaceable kingdom here on earth.
Setting aside the specific religious tenets, the imagery of Advent can be tailored to the situations of many divorced moms who are eager to move on from the pain and hurt of divorce and into a life of joy and fulfillment. You might adapt the Advent wreath and a set of prayers or aspirations to your circumstances. Your focus might be on healing and recovery while looking forward to a life filled with the light of peace and joy, akin to the Christmas spirit.
The Advent wreath is a personal favorite tradition. You can make a simple wreath with four candles (the traditional colors are 3 dark purple and one pink) that you keep on the dinner table or in a room where you pray or meditate. I usually have a small wreath on my foyer table and a larger one on the dinner table.
I keep it simple. For the wreath on my table, I use a large plate and short, thick candles that will stand up on their own. I have artificial greens that I put around the candles to make it look like a wreath. My small wreath uses a frame with candle holders, so all I have to do is buy the candles each year when the old ones burn down.
Once I get out the wreaths and candles, I bless them on the first night I use them. Sometimes I use traditional prayers, and sometimes I’ve used contemporary blessings, and sometimes I make up my own. To focus on creating a life you love after divorce, you might use a blessing such as this one which is adapted from the traditional Catholic blessing (find the full text here):
The short days and long nights of Advent mirror the long, lonely nights of divorce.
As we wait for the light to return, we gather around this wreath and remember
the possibility and promise of the future with hope.
As we light the candles of this wreath, let its light rekindle the light within.
Heal the hurts within our hearts, and awaken within us the spark of love as we wait in joyful hope for the new life ahead.
Then each day you can light a candle when you prayer or at meals. The first week you light one candle, the second week you light two candles, and so on. As you light the candle(s) you can say the traditional Advent prayers (the O antiphons are particularly beautiful), or you can say your own prayers, intentions, aspirations, or wishes. Connecting with the tradition and words of those in exile who are longing to return home might give voice to your feelings, or you may just say a few simple words to yourself as you light the candle, such as “May I have peace within,” or “May this light illuminate my spirit and fill me with joy.”
You can combine these rituals with acts of service, seasonal traditions, baking and shopping, and other activities that bring you joy. You may find comfort in tradition, but some activities may be too painful or too difficult to tackle, and you might let those go, at least for this year. As Christmas draws near (whether you celebrate the religious holiday or not), look for the ways in which you are finding joy and feeling lighter and appreciate the healing that is occurring. You may find that by the time Christmas arrives, you have found reasons to love your life after divorce which will move you forward into a new year ahead.