Skip to comments.Why Do Catholics Celebrate Advent? The Call to Begin Again (Ecumenical Caucus)
Posted on 11/27/2011 9:03:57 AM PST by narses
During the Liturgical Season of Advent, we walk through the great events of Christian history so as to inculcate them into our daily lives and offer their promise to the whole world. During Advent we are invited through our liturgical readings and practices, to clear away all that entangles us and open a space in our hearts, our homes, our relationships and our lives, for Love Incarnate to be born again.
For many of our readers in the United States of America, Thanksgiving was a day for family gatherings and for giving thanks. Sometimes, it also becomes a day of stress, as families deal with all the intricacies of those challenging relationships which come with the vocation. After all, marriage and family life is a call to holiness and to be holy is to be like the Lord. Every relationship and every challenge in a relationship is an invitation to learn the way of persevering, patient love.
This kind of love is made manifest in Jesus Christ and we are invited to live in it and reveal it to others. In his masterful hymn of love, the Apostle Paul reminds us all, Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13: 4-8)
This weekend, the Catholic Church, good mother that she is, focuses the Christian faithful on a beautiful liturgical season which calls us to live in anticipation of a new beginning, a new coming of the Lord. This season of joyful preparation is also a season of great hope. If we fully enter into its celebration, we will be constantly invited through our liturgical readings and practices, to clear away all that entangles us and open a space in our hearts, our homes, our relationships and our lives, for Love Incarnate to be born again. This wonderful liturgical season of the Church Year is called Advent.
The focus in the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church, during this Advent season will be on preparing for the coming(s) of the Lord. One of my favorite readings is taken from an Advent homily given by St. Bernard of Clairveaux. His insight unveils the special truth of this wonderful season of beginning again. He reminds us of all the Lords comings. He then situates us where we live our daily lives, on the road of continual conversion, the heart of the Christian vocation:
We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible while the other two are visible. In the first coming He was seen on earth, dwelling among men; . in the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God and they will look upon Him whom they have pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In His first coming our Lord came in our flesh and our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and in majesty. Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. (St. Bernard of Clairveaux)
I write on the First Sunday of Advent. Many of the faithful throughout the world, will bring the advent candles out of storage and set it them in a prominent place. Over these special weeks preceding Christmas, families, religious communities and all of the faithful will gather, pray and sing together- inviting the coming of the Lord into our lives, our homes, the Church and into the world which God still loves so much that He sends His Son, through all who have been Baptized into the Body of Christ. We live in a new missionary age; a culture where the influences of Christian traditions are waning. That is why many are again asking, why do Catholics and other Christians celebrate Advent? We need to give them an answer through the witness of our living faith.
The word Advent is derived from the Latin words, ad-venio or adventus, which both signify a coming. It is a liturgical season in the Catholic Church that has birthed customs and practices in daily Catholic life meant to be filled with living faith. These customs form a framework, a pattern that moves us forward in the process of continual conversion that is meant to be what the Christian life is all about. We are always invited to begin again. That is the heart of the message which Christians can bring to an age often staggering in the existential sadness which is one of the horrid after effects of the dictatorship of relativism. The Advent candles we will light symbolize Jesus Christ, the True Light of the world. It is He who can dispel the dreariness of an age which has all but lost real hope. The message we are to proclaim during this wonderful season is that Lord is always coming for those who look for Him!
The formal celebration of Advent dates back to the fourth century but the practice of preparing for the coming of theLord by living as though he is always coming goes back to the very beginnings of the Church. Through the history of the Western Church the season of Advent has become a significant part of the pattern of life, faith, culture and worship that is Catholic Christianity. During the weeks which precede the Nativity of the Lord Jesus, (Christ-Mass), Christians (Catholics and others) will be invited by the Church to prepare, to get ready, to make a place for the Lord in our lives and in our homes, to anticipate His coming(s).
Beginning with the Sunday Vigil Mass, we will sing the ever-familiar hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. That song will become the backdrop of the season, sticking in our minds both individually and collectively. I know the tune will be hummed incessantly and do what music does when it is repeated, get down deep into our subconscious. It may even become annoying- as music also can. However, even that annoyance, gets to the root of Catholic life and faith. It is, as they say in the Internet world, granular Christianity, filled with practices that root themselves experientially into your bones. Catholicism is earthy, real, incarnational Christianity for earthy, real believers who understand that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ has changed everything and everyone. .
Sooner than we can imagine, the liturgical air will be filled with the beautiful O Antiphons, taken from the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures in the Prophetic and Wisdom Books. They will be sung as a part of the formal Liturgy of the Hours beginning seven days before the Vigil of Christmas. These short prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours, or Breviary, which all clergy, most religious orders, and an increasing number of lay men and women use as the structure for daily prayer throughout the western Catholic world, are also a part of the treasury of Catholic faith and life. This liturgy forms a foundation for our faith and places us in the heart of a Church that stretches back two thousand years and reaches forward to the final coming of the Lord.
As a Deacon of the Church, I will wear lavender vestments when I serve alongside of the priest at the altar. Lavender is a color that connotes both repentance, and expectation. These two actions and attitudes are the heart, the spirit of the season. Advent is a time to get ready and to build up the hope within our hearts for the promised coming of Jesus Christ! We do so by repenting of our sin and renouncing our wrong choices. We are invited to empty ourselves of the clutter of our daily idolatry and renounce the disordered self love that can squeeze Gods grace out of our lives.It is by His grace that we truly find ourselves, made new again in Jesus Christ!
Catholic Christians repeat together-experientially- through our liturgy (which means the work of worship), the meaning of the Christian life. We walk through the great events of Christian history so as to inculcate the mystery of faith more deeply within our nitty-gritty lives in the real world. We build a way -a pattern- of daily Christian living with these customs, practices, and celebrations. During Advent, the Church, as a mother, calls us all to get ready, to clean the house, to set special times aside, so that we will be ready for all of His comings!
The Scriptural texts that we will hear at Mass (the Divine Liturgy) will be introduce us to great figures, such as John the Baptizer, who embody the call to repentance and preparing the way for all who live between the first and the final coming of Jesus. These Old and New Testament passages will be beautifully juxtaposed in every Eucharistic Liturgy and in the Liturgy of the Hours in order to point to -and expound upon- all the comings that St Bernard so insightfully wrote about. The faithful are invited to experience the extraordinary graces found in the full smorgasbord of sacramental and liturgical services. However, ultimately, it will come down to each person, each family, making the choice to accept the invitation and to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
As I grow older, I love being a Catholic Christian more and more. I remember reading a newspaper article in an airport many years ago in which a priest wrote that Catholicism was religion for the long haul. I see the truth of that assertion more as the years seem to fly by. Oh, I know that some other Christians see practices such as Advent as empty ritual; and perhaps for some, that is what they have become.
But for me, celebrating Advent, indeed celebrating all the seasons of the Church year, are continual calls back to faith, repentance, conversion and holiness of life, the things that really matter. The ritual of Catholic Christian life provides a form into which the freshness of the Spirit can be poured again and again. I remember an old Pentecostal minister once telling me when I was twenty one years old Son, we get filled with the Spirit, but then we leak. So we do. It is time to refill!
The familiar patterns and practices of Catholic faith present an opportunity for shaping family life, customs, and inform a piety that all can help us to assimilate the beauty and truth revealed in the comings of the Lord. They help us to break from the monotony of regular daily life in order to participate in something bigger than ourselves. They connect us to the One who always comes to those who are prepared. They are, as we used to say more often, occasions of grace.
As my life goes on I need more than ever to hear the clarion call to prepare the way for the Lord. I need these special times of grace. I need these holy seasons. Unlike my youth when I thought I had it all figured out, I find something quite different has occurred as my hair has turned white (and sparse) and I continue in my journey of faith. I realize how little I actually do know. and how much more conversion I need to get ready for that coming when I will pass from one life to the next.
The liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church are an extraordinary gift and opportunity. After all, human beings are going to mark time. We will mark it either with the ordinary stuff of ordinary life or we will fill it as well with the things of God, thereby transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Why do we celebrate Advent? Because we need it.
Bring on the candles, the songs, the colors, and the seasons. Bring on the special liturgical times, and fill the air with all the special smells.. I love it all. Advent is a road, a way of living the Christian life and vocation, in the here and now, which enters into the eternal mysteries. We now live in that intermediate time between the first and the second comings of Jesus Christ. We are to be changed by the first and called to prepare ourselves- and the world in which we live- for the second. During this process of conversion He continues to come to all those who make themselves ready. Happy Advent, Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/catholicbychoice/2010/11/why-do-catholics-celebrate-advent-the-call-to-begin-again.html#ixzz1evQhZuHx
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In Advent, Christians relive a dual impulse of the spirit: on the one hand, they raise their eyes towards the final destination of their pilgrimage through history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, remembering with emotion his birth in Bethlehem, they kneel before the Crib.
The hope of Christians is turned to the future but remains firmly rooted in an event of the past. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary: "Born of a woman, born under the law", as the Apostle Paul writes (Gal 4: 4).
-- Pope Benedict XVI -
First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2005
Advent: Every Child Born is a Sign
Hope is indelibly engraved in the human heart because God our Father is life, and for eternal life and beatitude we are made.
Every child born is a sign of trust in God and man and a confirmation, at least implicit, of the hope in a future open to Gods eternity that is nourished by men and women. God has responded to this human hope, concealing Himself in time as a tiny human being.
Saint Augustine wrote: We might have thought that your Word was far distant from union with man, if this Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us (Conf. X, 43, 69, cited in Spe Salvi, n. 29).
Thus, let us allow ourselves to be guided by the One who in her heart and in her womb bore the Incarnate Word.
O Mary, Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope, revive the spirit of Advent in your entire Church, so that all humanity may start out anew on the journey towards Bethlehem, from which it came, and that the Sun that dawns upon us from on high will come once again to visit us (cf. Lk 1: 78), Christ our God. Amen.
Pope Benedict XVI
From his homily for the first vespers
of the first Sunday of Advent,
December 1, 2007 - St. Peters Basilica
Excerpt from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Principles and Guidelines, Vatican City, December 2001
96. Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope:
waiting-memory of the first, humble coming of the Lord in our mortal flesh; waiting-supplication for his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge;
conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 3,2);
joyful hope that the salvation already accomplished by Christ (cf. Rm 8, 24-25) and the reality of grace in the world, will mature and reach their fulness, thereby granting us what is promised by faith, and "we shall become like him for we shall see him as he really is" (John 3,2).
97. Popular piety is particularly sensitive to Advent, especially when seen as the memory of the preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Christian people are deeply conscious of the long period of expectation that preceded the birth of our Saviour. The faithful know that God sustained Israel's hope in the coming of the Messiah by the prophets.
Popular piety is not unaware of this extraordinary event. Indeed, it is awestruck at the prospect of the God of glory taking flesh in the womb of the humble and lowly Virgin Mary. The faithful are particularly sensitive to the difficulties faced by the Virgin Mary during her pregnancy, and are deeply moved by the fact that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary, just as she was about to give birth to the Christ child (cf Lk 2,7).
Various expressions of popular piety connected with Advent have emerged throughout the centuries. These have sustained the faith of the people, and from one generation to the next, they have conserved many valuable aspects of the liturgical season of Advent.
The Advent Wreath
98. Placing four candles on green fronds has become a symbol of Advent in many Christian home, especially in the Germanic countries and in North America.
The Advent wreath, with the progressive lighting of its four candles, Sunday after Sunday, until the Solemnity of Christmas, is a recollection of the various stages of salvation history prior to Christ's coming and a symbol of the prophetic light gradually illuminating the long night prior to the rising of the Sun of justice (cf. Ml 3,20; Lk 1,78).
99. In many regions, various kinds of processions are held in Advent, publicly to announce the imminent birth of the Saviour (the "day star" in some Italian processions), or to represent the journey to Bethlehem of Joseph and Mary and their search for a place in which Jesus would be born (the posadas in the Hispanic and Latin American tradition).
The Winter Interstice
100. Advent is celebrated during the Winter interstice in the northern hemisphere. This indicate a change of seasons and a moment of rest in many spheres of human endeavour. Popular piety is extremely sensitive to the vital cycle of nature. While the Winter interstice is celebrated, the seed lays in the ground waiting for the light and heat of the sun, which begins its ascent with the Winter solstice, and eventually causes it to germinate.
In those areas where popular piety has given rise to the celebration of the changing season, such expressions should be conserved and used as a time to pray the Lord, to reflect on the meaning of human work, which is a collaboration with the creative work of God, a self-realisation of the person, service to the common good, and an actualization of the plan of redemption(114).
The Blessed Virgin Mary and Advent
The Liturgy frequently celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary in an exemplary way during the season of Advent(115). It recalls the women of the Old Testament who prefigured and prophesied her mission; it exalts her faith and the humility with which she promptly and totally submitted to Gods plan of salvation; it highlights her presence in the events of grace preceding the birth of the Saviour. Popular piety also devotes particular attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent, as is evident from the many pious exercised practised at this time, especially the novena of the Immaculate Conception and of Christmas.
However, the significance of Advent, "that time which is particularly apt for the cult of the Mother of God"(116), is such that it cannot be represented merely as a "Marian month".
In the calendars of the Oriental Churches, the period of preparation for the celebration of the manifestation (Advent) of divine salvation (Theophany) in the mysteries of Christmas-Epiphany of the Only Son of God, is markedly Marian in character. Attention is concentrated on preparation for the Lord's coming in the Deipara. For the Orientals, all Marian mysteries are Christological mysteries since they refer to the mystery of our salvation in Christ. In the Coptic rite, the Lauds of the Virgin Mary are sung in the Theotokia. Among the Syrians, Advent is referred to as the Subbara or Annunciation, so as to highlight its Marian character. The Byzantine Rite prepares for Christmas with a whole series of Marian feasts and rituals.
102. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is profoundly influential among the faithful, is an occasion for many displays of popular piety and especially for the novena of the Immaculate Conception. There can be no doubt that the feast of the pure and sinless Conception of the Virgin Mary, which is a fundamental preparation for the Lord's coming into the world, harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent. This feast also makes reference to the long messianic waiting for the Saviours's birth and recalls events and prophecies from the Old Testament, which are also used in the Liturgy of Advent.
The novena of the Immaculate Conception, wherever it is celebrated, should highlight the prophetical texts which begin with Genesis 3,15, and end in Gabriel's salutation of the one who is "full of grace" (Lk 1, 31-33).
The approach of Christmas is celebrated throughout the American continent with many displays of popular piety, centred on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 December), which dispose the faithful to receive the Saviour at his birth. Mary, who was "intimately united with the birth of the Church in America, became the radiant Star illuminating the proclamation of Christ the Saviour to the sons of these nations"(117).
The Christmas Novena
103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the "major antiphons", and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before of after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal "Christmas novena", in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.
104. As is well known, in addition to the representations of the crib found in churches since antiquity, the custom of building cribs in the home was widely promoted from the thirteenth century, influenced undoubtedly by St. Francis of Assisi's crib in Greccio. Their preparation, in which children play a significant role, is an occasion for the members of the family to come into contact with the mystery of Christmas, as they gather for a moment of prayer or to read the biblical accounts of the Lord's birth.
Popular piety and the spirit of Advent
105. Popular piety, because of its intuitive understanding of the Christian mystery, can contribute effectively to the conservation of many of the values of Advent, which are not infrequently threatened by the commercialization of Christmas and consumer superficiality.
Popular piety perceives that it is impossible to celebrate the Lord's birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor and imarginated. The expectation of the Lord's birth makes us sensitive to the value of life and the duties to respect and defend it from conception. Popular piety intuitively understands that it is not possible coherently to celebrate the birth of him "who saves his people from their sins" without some effort to overcome sin in one's own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time.
yep got our Advent wreath out and we lit the candle and sang the song and my daughter asked why we celebrate it...she has it all figured out
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His posterity forever.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum,
et exsultávit spíritus meus
in Deo salvatóre meo,
quia respéxit humilitátem
Ecce enim ex hoc beátam
me dicent omnes generatiónes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericórdia eius in progénies
et progénies timéntibus eum.
Fecit poténtiam in bráchio suo,
dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui;
depósuit poténtes de sede
et exaltávit húmiles.
Esuriéntes implévit bonis
et dívites dimísit inánes.
Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum,
sicut locútus est ad patres nostros,
Ábraham et sémini eius in sæcula.
Glória Patri et Fílio
et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio,
et nunc et semper,
et in sæcula sæculórum.