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Favorite Catholic Advent Songs

Advent is one of my favorite times of year. My favorite part about it is that it prepares us for 2 separate events – one that’s happened and one that is going to happen. We prepare to receive baby Jesus in the Incarnation of the nativity, and we also prepare for the second coming of our King.

There is plenty of great classical and traditional Advent music, but there is slim pickings when it comes to contemporary music. I think this is often because many Christians that produce high quality music would rather focus on Christmas music and the joys of the nativity. It’s always easier to focus on an innocent baby over the return of the Lord and the final judgement.

Last week, I wrote a full review of Advent Vol. I and Advent Vol. II by The Brilliance over at Austin Catholic New Media. I wrote it because I’m always looking for high quality contemporary Christian music, especially those that promote the tradition of the Church. I’m also fascinated that a non-Catholic Christian band would center different EPs on very Catholic themes.

Advent-Wreath

What is Different About Music For Advent?

Overall, it’s a time of peace, love, and joy, but it is not the great celebration of the season of Christmas until December 25th.

Liturgically, we hold off from the Gloria, just as we do in Lent, but we still get to sing Alleluia. Seems that parts of the Gloria are always trying to sneak into songs about Advent, but there is a beauty in hinting at it as we prepare for Christmas and slowly build up to the celebration.

In Advent the use of the organ and other musical instruments should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts

-GIRM 313

In Lent, the Gloria exemption is at the Solemnity of  the Annunciation. Also similar to lent, the one exception we have in Advent is also about Mary – the Gloria is sung during the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Mary is a great model for Advent, or as Archbishop Gomez put it, “Advent is a season of Mary.”

The central themes revolve around the expectation of Jesus, and no one knows that better than Mary.

My Favorite Songs

My Favorites consists of new takes of traditional songs and general Christian songs of expectation. While there are many artists that have covered some of these songs, the ones below are my personal favorites. I am not claiming that these are fully faithful to the spirit of Advent, but they speak to my heart. If you are looking for truly faithful music, I recommend you look into Advent at Ephesus – by the Benedictine of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

  • O Come, O Come Emmanuel (The epitome of Advent songs) – Phil Whickham or Future of Forestry
  • Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels
  • O Come Divine Messiah – Robbie Seay Band
  • Lo! How A Rose E’er Blooming – Sufjan Stevens
  • Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent – Marian Grace
  • Ready the Way – Curtis Stephan
  • My Soul Rejoices – Jackie Francois
  • Emmanuel – Hilsong
  • My Soul In stillness Waits – Select versions
  • Come Lord, Jesus – Tyler Richardson, Janie Evans
  • Holy Is His Name – Any version
  • People Look East – Some versions
  • What wondrous Love – Marian Grace
  • Word Became Flesh – Castle Island Hymns
  • Ave Maria – Any Version
  • Mother of God – The Brilliance
  • God in Flesh Our Hope Divine (for the last days of Advent) – The Brilliance
  • Wake Up O’Sleeper – Legacy Worship Band
  • Come and Reign – Emu Music
  • Even so, Come – Josh Via
  • In the Stillness – Tyler Richardson
  • Lo He Comes in Clouds Descending – Tangled Blue

If you like this list and use Spotify, subscribe to the playlist below.

Share your favorite Advent songs in the comments.

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Standing Desk

Standing While I Work

For generations, the average office job required that we sit down for most of the day. As the culture has become more dependent upon technology, man has had to put less effort into his job and many of us spend what is considered a sedentary lifestyle.

I find this very depressing. Man was not created to be caged up sitting staring at screens and pushing buttons. It used to seemed so sad to think the George Jetson could be so exhausted after a long days work of pushing buttons. Thinking about it now, I can relate to him. A long day at the office can leave you feeling exhausted even if the work wasn’t very laborious.

I’m not originally from the city. I grew up in the country and know what hard work really means. I know how it feels to be  physically exhausted from a long day of near-back-breaking work.

I remember the times when every minute of the work seemed to be slower than the last, and was inspired to get an education to never have to depend on work like that again.

I love the blessing to be able to be a creative professional and have the opportunity to create and come up with new ideas every day. Although I’m left wondering if there’s a way to get a better balance of the physical back into my daily work.

The Dangers of Inactivity

Even if you spend some time regularly exercising, the majority of our lives can be wasted sitting. There is a largely disproportionate time spent sitting, sleeping, and not moving as compared to physical activity. This increases many health problems because God did not create us to be so inactive. I recommend reading and listening to this article on NPR.

It’s possible to help counteract it by taking routine breaks and sneaking in more regular activity. For me, this is difficult because good ideas don’t always come at a constant flow, so I stay focused to try and execute it before it’s lost and I have to move on to something else. I was stuck at my desk the whole day and even if I got in a good run or workout in the day, it was only a small drop in the bucket against the time I spent inactive.

My Transition To A Standing Desk

After reading many terrifying articles about the dangers of sitting all day at a desk, I looked into a solution that had been growing in popularity with the creative community – a standing desk.

After weeks of research I had come up with a strong plan to approach my boss with the idea. At first, people seemed very surprised at the very idea. They often asked, “are you really going to stand all day?” I would respond with my argument that it’s a much better idea than sitting all day.

Even though I have my own office, people would stop by for months after just to ask me whether or not I ever sit down and then why I did it. The idea caught on to a few other people in the building, but they do alternate their time sitting and standing. I sit for my lunch and on my drive to and from work and it’s enough.

Standing all day brings a new liberation not only for my formerly constricted blood vessels and muscles, but it was new freedom for my creativity. I understand why the creative community is one that embraced it so quickly.

While I am already standing, it’s easy to walk around and think out solutions. My work has also improved and my work efficiency has increased. I would say there is an overall general improvement in my entire work ethic.

Yes, I am a little tired at the end of the day, but it’s a much better tired feeling than it was before.

Converting Workstations

If you’ve considered converting to working while standing, I highly recommend it for anyone that is physically capable. If you feel that you can’t handle the whole day, get a stool that will allow you to transition in between standing and sitting at different times. I had to do this temporarily for a few weeks after I got a knee injury from a workout.

If you are going to go all in and do standing only, I highly recommend getting an anti-fatigue standing mat. I tried this after a few months and it really makes a big difference. I also suggest trying good shoes. It will help your feet, knees, and back in the long run.

When looking at what to buy for you own desk, I recommend trying http://www.ikeahackers.net/ first to try and hack together a solution for a fraction of the price of a pre-built standing desk. If your main workstation is in a cubicle, those are often the easiest desks to convert because they have notches that can be raised with little effort. If you have a close workstation with your co-workers, I recommend reading  this article from LifeHacker.

Once you convert over to standing, ergonomics is just as important as it is while sitting. If not carried out properly, there can be some health risks to standing all day too.

My personal desk is still a sitting station, but the balance works great for me. It’s now been almost 15 months since I converted, and I hope I never have to go back to sitting all day again.

Standing Desk

My Current Standing Desk

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Conversations with Saints

For a long time in my spirituality I looked at the saints as great role models, but I never really went past that line with them. In many ways, it was as if I was looking at them as dead members of the Church. That might sound strange considering they have all died, many of them centuries ago, but my eyes have since been opened to see this great cloud of witnesses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
-Hebrews 12:1-2

These great witnesses may have passed, but the saints are alive.

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”

Luke 20:37-38

In the past few years that I truly began to embrace the saints, my faith has found more comfort  and encouragement being actively involved in their prayers for me. These great heroes became more than old stories of history, and I was able to enter into conversation with them.

and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.

Revelation 8:4

The beauty of having perfect friends is that they only point me to Jesus. This is part of the reason I find it odd/interesting that some protestants accuse us of worshiping idols.

How do we talk to the saints? Well… we pray. Not to them, but with them.

Looking at the surface, I can kind of see how it could be confused as idol worship, but our prayers are more than remembrance of loved ones passed. Our prayers with saints are live conversations with those that have already finished the race. They know the struggles – they know the suffering. I can think of no one better to ask for prayers.

Last year, I only finished one painting so that I could take a break and focus on large design projects like Austin Catholic New Media. I also felt like taking a break from religious themed art, which has dominated most of my works. Now after much discernment, I realized that promoting the faith through my art is more important than ever.

Now that my angel series has come to a stopping point, I am very excited to work on my new works that will focus on the saints. I hope that I am able to create works unique to my style and in ways that celebrate the great legacies of these men and women that know a life and love deeper than we can imagine here on earth.

May it be done for the greater glory of God.

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A Movement in Austin

I have been incredibly busy lately, but in a hectic schedule, we launched Austin Catholic New Media’s new site. Check out the site and my post for the launch titled A Movement in Austin. Check it out and leave some feedback on the post of the new design of the website.

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Progress in Ministry Online

One of my favorite current responsibilities is being the communications coordinator for WilCoYA Ministry. It is a young adult ministry that unites Catholics from the diocese of Austin, mainly from the North Austin and Williamson county area. We launched a new look for WilCoYA.com last week, and I am very happy with the outcome.

Our ministry is of a modest size, but our audience is many times larger than our actual members. We are able to have a strong presence online to not only show what we are doing as a group in our ministry, but we are also able to feature important and relevant information and news about our Catholic Christian faith. Combining the two makes for a great witness of how our generations can take Truth and live it as an active Christian community.

I enjoy designing the monthly promotional material more than almost any other projects that I work on. For the  generations of today, the internet exists as a primary form of communication and discovery. Without a solid platform and appealing design, it would not be effective.

Look for more Catholic new media projects to be released in February 2011. Super exciting times! I’ld be happy to hear any feedback and constructive criticism.

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