Sunday 28 November 2021

Prepare the Way of the Lord - Carl E. Olson - CTS Devotions

Prepare the Way of the Lord
Catholic Truth Society
eISBN 9781784696795
CTS Booklet D837

This was one of three new eBooks I picked up from the Catholic Truth Society the day the released. The other two are Prayer in Action by Andrzej Muszala and Praying the Great O Antiphons by Katy Carl (which is a great resource as well), and all three were eagerly anticipated since I first heard of them being announced. But this one maybe even more so, last Lent I read the companion volume to this book, Praying the Our Father in Lent, and absolutely loved it. And even though this book released just a week before Advent began, I devoured it, And plan to read it again through advent this year and for several years to come. 

Over the last several years, I have read over 250 volumes from the CTS. I have read books from many series. And many authors. I have read several books that are part of the CTS Devotions and Prayer Series. I have read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and the Great Saints Series. I have read many books for Advent both from the CTS and other sources. This however is the second by Carl E. Olson that I have read, and I believe it is he only has the two books with the CTS. At least to date. The description of the booklet is:

“Prayerfully discover the meaning of Christmas with this collection of meditations on the Scriptures and prayers of the Advent season. Reflecting upon the Sunday Gospels, Carl E Olson highlights their depth and helps us to apply the Scriptures to our own lives.

Olson continues this Advent meditation by offering a line-by-line contemplation on the Hail Mary, illuminating the significance of each word so as to deepen our experience of this integral prayer. By praying the Hail Mary mindfully, we discover how to walk through Advent with Mary, ready to welcome her Son at Christmas.”

And the chapters in the book are:


Cycle A Readings
     First Sunday of Advent
     Second Sunday of Advent
     Third Sunday of Advent
     Fourth Sunday of Advent
Cycle B Readings
     First Sunday of Advent
     Second Sunday of Advent
     Third Sunday of Advent
     Fourth Sunday of Advent
Cycle C Readings
First Sunday of Advent
     Second Sunday of Advent
     Third Sunday of Advent
     Fourth Sunday of Advent
     Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Part Two: Advent And The Hail Mary
Mary’s Gift of Self Points the Way
The Perfect Faith of the Blessed Virgin
Theotokos: Everything that Mary Is
Holy Mary and the Death of Sin

The first thing that impressed me even before I started reading was the fact that Olson has written reflections for all three years of the Liturgical Calendar. Not since reading Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary edited by Sarah A. Reinhard many years ago have I really looked at the Hail May in a new and deeper way. But this volume has taken me deeper into the Hail Mary and even reading the whole book before Advent, has me anticipating reading it again this Advent and for the next few to come. This volume begins with these words:

““Christmas”, stated Pope Benedict XVI during a General Audience in 2008, “is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the meaning and value of our existence.”1 There is much to contemplate in that single sentence. Do we, for example, think of Christmas as a “privileged opportunity”? As a chance to meditate on the what and why and how of our lives? Our existence? Our place in this world, in this time?

Advent is a time of anticipation, expectation, awakening, reflection. But I knew nothing at all about Advent for the first twenty-five years of my life. Growing up as a young Evangelical Protestant, I certainly looked forward to Christmas, and our family celebrated the birth of Christ. But there really wasn’t much preparation; there was no season to help focus my thoughts and heart on what – on Who! – was coming.

Now, having been a Catholic for nearly a quarter of a century, for me Advent has become a favourite time of the liturgical year, for a number of reasons.”

Further on in the introduction he states:

“You might say that Advent is the drama that leads to the climax, the search that concludes with the answer, the meditation that is taken up into the Incarnate Word. And the Advent drama does not just look forward, but looks back at salvation history, looks up to the saving heavens, and even looks down at the earthly reality of where we are now. Advent is that time when eternity starts to break into our temporal existence and, if we open our eyes and hearts, breaks into our very being.”

And also:

“And then there is the cross. We don’t often think of it as a companion during Advent, but it is the way of Christ and of his disciples. We can only long for the coming of Christ and eternal life if we die to ourselves. We must know our place – in both this world and the world to come. God desires a unity of all men, in communion with the Father through the Son. The cross leads to unity; pride leads to death: “The greatest obstacle anyone can put to unity”, warns Daniélou, “is to want to make himself the centre of things.””

Throughout the volume he draws frequently from Benedict XVI, Ronald Knox, and Jean Daniélou. The book is written with devotion and passion. But it is also exceptionally well researched. It is easy to engage with, but stopping at the end of the days may prove difficult. But it is one of those spiritual books you could read many, many times, and with each reading be blessed in a new and different way. I know that I will be reading it through the three year cycle at least once and likely for many years to come.

These reflections vary in length but not significantly, unlike the companion volume. At the beginning of Part II of the volume we are informed that: 

“This booklet is a companion to another CTS publication: Praying the Our Father in Lent. In that booklet I explored how the words of the “Our Father” can shape our Lenten preparations for Easter in a profound and fruitful way. In this booklet, I offer an exegesis of another beloved prayer of our Tradition, the “Hail Mary”. This is a prayer that many Catholics pray every day, some of us many times a day, either on its own or in the course of praying the Holy Rosary. The following thoughts are intended to help make this beautiful and glorious prayer a part of your own journey towards Christmas, a means of preparing your heart to welcome the Infant Christ.”

This is an excellent little volume, one that has the potential of becoming a spiritual classic. I greatly enjoyed reading this volume. And know I will work through it again over the next several years. It was an excellent book to work through. But I would love to see Olsen do a daily devotion for Lent or Advent. If you are looking for a great volume to read over Advent, I can highly recommend this one. It is another great resource from the Catholic Truth Society!  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Devotions series click here.

Books by Carl E. Olson:
Will Catholics Be Left Behind?
The Da Vinci Hoax
Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Catholicism Study Guide
Called to Be the Children of God

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