This week, we began our journey through Advent.
So what does the season really entail? After all it can get kind of lost as we go into
Christmas mode with the lights, cards, shopping and Christmas music (all good things
to do and enjoy, but it’s also worth remembering it is a holy time of joyful waiting as we
prepare to celebrate our Savior’s Birth).
The word Advent is from the Latin “adventus” for “coming” and is associated with the
four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays,
beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30)
and continuing until December 24. It is not a penitential season but a season of joyful
waiting; a time of the liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of
the Lord and has a joyful theme of getting ready for remembering the Bethlehem event.
Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year.
The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet, however the color can be different
from the color used during Lent. This is because Advent is not a penitential season;
Lent is. Therefore, it is a blueish shade of purple or lighter purple.
The Advent Wreath
Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into
which are inserted four candles. According to tradition, three of the candles are violet
and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color
anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the
Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice” (Latin, Gaudete). Rose color vestments are used too
(though I won’t be offended if you call them pink). We also use Rose Colored vestments
on the Fourth Sunday of Lent; both those days symbolize a kind of a turning of the
corner as we approach the upcoming feasts of Christmas and Easter. As Christmas
gets closer, the light from the candles increases, symbolizing the light of Christ,
dispelling the darkness.
What to do during the season?
While we are looking forward to celebrating Christmas, really the Christmas event has
already happened. Christ has come the first time. But, he will come again. Advent gives
us the chance to re-order our lives to prepare for that event.
For one, think about how you can see God better during this time. Think about where
your energies are going, and keeping your eyes fixed on the final destination which is
Thus, Advent recalls the Lord’s first coming, his final return, and his presence among us
now in the life of the Church. So look for God here, not just in the manger but all around
you. We can see God better by making more time for God; by praying; by making Mass a priority; by celebrating confession (we have our penance service as a parish this
Monday starting at 6:30, and the Third and Fourth Sunday of Advent I will also be in the
confessional an extra hour). Find a kind of spirituality that works for you, and use it. It
could be the rosary; or reading a chapter from the Bible each night, or just spending
five minutes in conversation with God using a prayer you like or a prayer from our heart.
We should make sure that while there was no room for Jesus when He came into the
world the first time, there is room in our hearts for him to come to us.
Secondly, Advent reminds us to live each day in preparation for Christ’s return. As
Christians, we do that by reminding the world that Christ is not distant and far away, but
alive. Actions for instance can speak so loudly. I recently celebrated a funeral Mass,
and anointed the person prior to her death. When I go to the hospital, she was next to
her loving husband. Though she could not respond to me, I could see in how attentive
her husband was to her that this sacred moment was one of many moments of love
over the course of their marriage, something that was echoed by her husband when he
shared stories of his wife. All of us have the power to be agents of hope and love by
passing on to others the love God gives us through our actions. We can also give the
gift of our time too. Even taking the time to write a personal note in a Christmas card
can be very meaningful as it says to a person “I care about you.” As we do these things,
it means we are people not just of action, but we use Advent to help people see God.
One final note: Also occurring during Advent is a Holy Day of Obligation, the
Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate next Saturday, December 8th with two
Masses, one Friday evening and another Saturday morning. This feast which celebrates
Mary’s conception invites us to reflect on how we too can be like our Blessed Mother
and be selfless in trusting God completely, and how we can like her bring Jesus to the
world through how we lead our lives.
I hope you have a blessed Advent Season as you prepare for Christmas. While my tree
has been up along with lights for quite some time, and I’m fully in the busyness of
getting ready for Christmas with the cards and shopping, and it’s great to celebrate
Christmas and be in a festive spirit, let’s not forget about this great season.The season
of Advent gives us the chance to reflect upon the fact that while we may get some nice
things under the tree, the greatest gift has already been given to us – God Himself,
coming as an infant born in a manger, and it gives us the time to think about how we
can give that gift to one another throughout the upcoming new year.