Advent invites us to slow down and prepare our hearts

Categories: Advent,Around the Diocese,Guest Views

celebrating_adventAs the days grow darker and colder here in central Minnesota, we know that we are quickly coming to the end of one liturgical year and moving to the next.

The great season of Advent is upon us — the first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 29. It is a season of waiting and of joyful hope; it is the season in which we prepare to receive the Light of the World, the one who scatters the darkness of our hearts.

As the church begins a new liturgical year, we are asked to engage the paschal mystery in a particular way. With all the violence plaguing families, cities and communities across the world, there is no better time to ponder the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

The word “advent” derives from the Latin for “coming” or “arrival.” The Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar explains:

“Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God … is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight” (UNLYGC, 39).

timothy_johnston

Timothy Johnston is the director of the Office of Worship of the Diocese of St. Cloud.

When we examine the readings for the Sundays of Advent, this twofold character is made evident. The first two weeks invite us to reflect on the second coming of Christ, the eschaton, when all things will be made new and peace will reign forever. Take some time to reflect with the passages from Jeremiah and Baruch. The images might challenge and deepen your understanding of our observance of Advent. Also, consider what you or your family might do to prepare the way for Christ’s coming.

The last two weeks of the season specifically turn our focus to the birth of Christ, which is made clear in the Collect on the Third Sunday:

“O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, . . . to attain the joys of so great a salvation” (Roman Missal).

As we move closer to the Solemnity of the Nativity, the church is invited to consider not only the physical birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago, but also the birth of Christ in our hearts and the implications the incarnation has on our living. Like John, who leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, do we leap for joy in the presence of Christ?

We live in such a hurried society that often Advent is overlooked. Many are already wrapped up in the hype of the “holiday” season and may only find Advent at church on Sunday. When he was the bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake, Archbishop John Wester wrote in an Advent pastoral letter:

“As Catholics, we must celebrate Advent differently. Our reckoning of time is itself a sacramental witness to the fullness of the paschal mystery. If we were to skip the Advent season or any other season, we would impoverish that witness. We are very lucky to have a Church who has provided us with seasons to bear witness to the great mysteries of our faith. As Christians, these celebrations and our observance of time help us witness the truth and beauty of the risen Christ.”

Our observance and celebration of the season can be evangelical. It can announce the Good News of Christ and invite others into the sacred mysteries. Our daily observance of this quiet and joyful season should invite the world around us to slow down and contemplate the great gift of the incarnation.