29 November 2009


29 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the first Sunday of Advent and the turning over the calendar to a new liturgical year. Actually, the new liturgical year begins with first vespers on the Saturday night (last night) before the first Sunday of Advent. Last night's first vespers service with Pope Benedict XVI was shown here in the U.S. on EWTN, and our friends at New Liturgical Movement have posted pictures here.

So, to begin: Happy New Year Church!

Advent (from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming") is the first season of the liturgical year, and celebrates the expectant anticipation of the coming of the Word into the world, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Latin word itself comes from the Greek word parousia, commonly used to reference the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. So, in this sense, then, Advent is both a reminder of the expectant waiting for the celebration of Christ's birth, and the waiting today that we Christian's endure in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming.

Advent actually has two phases. In the first two weeks of Advent, the Church focuses on the final coming of Christ. Here, at the beginning of a new liturgical cycle, we are invited to reflect on the end of time. For a follower of Christ, it is important to always keep our death--the end of our days--in mind.

Our destiny--the very purpose of our life--is to share eternity with God after a lifetime on earth.

The third and fourth weeks of Advent, however, are devoted to preparation for Mary's miraculous gift of motherly love to all of humanity--the birth of Our Savior.

There is some commonality between Lent and Advent. The liturgical color for both seasons is purple. Both are seasons of preparation and anticipation. And,both seasons are penitential in nature. As in Lent, the faithful are encouraged during Advent to make extra efforts to engage in spiritual activities (similar to the spiritual exercises that are traditional during Lent) and to, especially, avail themselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way, we truly act to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

True to the first phase of Advent, today's readings focus on end times. The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah recounts the words of the Lord: “The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jer 33, 14). This is a promise of a happy and secure life, a promise of justice and peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21, 36) In the second reading, Saint Paul advises the early Christian community to prepare for judgment by the Lord, who will judge us according to how we have loved our neighbor. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” (1 Thes 3, 12)

So, as we begin this new year with an eye on the end, let us pray to be able to attentively listen to the call of Christ and the Church. I pray that we may each take this First Sunday of Advent as the new opportunity to  begin again to live our lives in a manner that will be pleasing to the Lord at the end of time.

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