THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY: First Sunday of Advent

PART I : Some Notes on the Season of Advent –

1. When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah. And by sharing in the long preparation for the Lord’s  1st coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his 2nd coming (CCC, no. 524).  God prepared for his Son’s coming for many centuries. Prophets of the Old Testament announced his coming. Finally, God sent St. John the Baptist, the last and the greatest of the prophets (Lk. 1:76; Lk. 7:26; Mt. 11:13), the immediate forerunner to prepare the way of the Messiah.

2. PREPARING FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST — Advent is the season of preparation for Chrismas. It looks forward to the triple coming of Christ: in history (his nativity); in grace (the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer); and at the end of time (his 2nd coming). Its tone is of anticipation, expectation, yearning. It is the beginning of the liturgical year. It commences with the first Sunday of Advent, the 4th before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve on 24th of December. Its name is derived from the Latin, “adventus,” “coming,” “arrival,” and is used for the “parousia,” or the 2nd coming of Christ. “Marana tha!” expresses the spirit of Advent.  An Aramaic phrase found in Greek in 1 Cor. 16:22, and translated as, “Come, Lord Jesus!” It is a Christian prayer for the early return of Christ. It is also found in Rev. 22:20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

3. HISTORICAL NOTE — A period of preparation for Christmas already existed about 460 AD. The Council of Tours (567 AD) ordered monks to fast everyday in the month of December until Christmas. It was a time of penitence. St. Gregory of Tours in the 5th century spoke  of a penitential practice in the diocese of Tours: fasting three times a week, beginning Nov 11 (St. Martin’s Day) until Christmas. This is why Advent was also called “Lent of St. Martin.” Soon the practice spread throughout France. By the 14th century, it was customary in Rome  to observe five weeks of Advent with abstinence.  Vatican II emphasized Advent as a season of hope for Christ’s 1st Coming and as promise of the  2nd Coming. 

4. THE ADVENT LITURGY, O ANTIPHONS — The theme of Readings during Advent is often the preparation for the 2nd Coming and the Last Judgment. The color Violet has been the liturgical color for Advent since the 13th century. On the 3rd Sunday, “Gaudete Sunday,” the color Rose is used as a sign of joy (“Gaudete ” “Rejoice”), a break in the somber character of Advent. The weekdays, 17 to 24 December, are marked by the singing of the “O Antiphons,” or the Antiphons of the Magnificat at Vespers or Evening Prayers. These antiphons form the basis for each verse  of the popular Advent hymn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” written originally in Latin (“Veni, veni, Emmanuel”) in the 12th century. During Advent, the Gloria is omitted. Ornaments and liturgical music should be moderate. 

5. THE ADVENT WREATH –Today, the setting up of Advent Wreaths in parish churches has become a regular Advent practice . The idea originated in the 16th century among German Lutherans. But the modern Advent Wreath with its candles representing the Sundays of Advent took shape only in 1839. This was the work of the  German Protestant Pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern to catechize poor children as they waited for Christmas. The round shape of the wreath symbolizes God’s eternity and the lighted candles  bring light, hope and peace. The 5th candle in the middle of the wreath is the Christ Candle. The 4 other candles may be interpreted  as the 4 stages of human history: creation, Incarnation, Redemption, and Last Judgment. Or they can mean the stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah: the forgiveness of Adam and Eve, the faith of Abraham and of the Patriarchs, the Davidic Covenant and the joy of David,  and the Messiah’s reign of justice and peace.

6. Even as we say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we have to prepare his way.  Let us think of the possible barriers for his coming to our homes and families. Are there hostilities, a lack of kindness and love, perhaps broken relationships in our families? Is  there a silent undeclared war with some neighbors? Is our community a safe and peaceful place? And we look into ourselves, the need to be reconciled with God because of disordered passions, pride, selfishness, unkindness. Advent is a time to break down the barriers and straighten the way of the Lord into our families, our neighborhood, our community, and into our hearts. The Church offers the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation to us as the way to straighten the path of the Lord. 

7. An Invocation for Advent —

Maranatha! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! May we grow in grace and abound  in love for one another.

Prayers, best wishes, God bless!

PART II, The Liturgy of the Word —

Is. 2:1-5;

Ps. 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9;

Rom. 13:11-14;

Mt. 24:37-44.

1. 1st Reading, Is. 2:1-5 — God gives Isaiah a vision of the future (v. 1). “In days to come” — may be interpreted as happening beyond the lifetime of Isaiah, or the messianic age at Christ’s 1st coming, or at Christ’s 2nd coming. The house of the Lord will be established on Mt. Zion. The Lord will give his word from the holy city of Jerusalem (Zion). All nations shall acknowledge his authority. People will go there to be instructed on walking his path (vv. 2-3). 

2. The Lord shall set terms of peace for the nations, and they will exchange war weapons for farm tools. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (vv. 3-4). 

3. How awesome the future is for God’s people in the messianic age and, more so, in the end-times. Hence, Isaiah calls Judah, “Come, House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (v. 5). 

4. Resp. Ps. 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — A pilgrim’s prayer for Jerusalem. Our Psalm complements the 1st Reading. “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (v. 1). The tribes of the Lord go there to give thanks. In Jerusalem are “the thrones of justice, the thrones of the house of David (vv. 4-5). Pray for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem. “I say peace be with you…. I pray for your good” (vv. 6-9).

5. 2nd Reading, Rom. 13:11-14 — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 10). “And do this because the time has come; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand” (vv. 11-12).

6. Paul tells the Romans that the 2nd coming of Christ is at hand, though he once believed otherwise. Therefore, let us put aside all evil. “Let us then throw off the works of dakness and put on the armor of light. Let us conduct ourselves properly…, not in orgies and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy” (vv. 12-13). Do not give in to earthly desires, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14).

7. Gospel, Mt. 24:37-44 — While Paul tells the Romans that the end is near, Jesus tells his disciples otherwise. “But of that day and hour no one knows neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (v. 36). 

8. During the time of Noah, people kept on doing evil and were unprepared for the flood. “So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man” (vv. 37-39). People will be doing their usual work and will be unprepared (vv. 40-41). “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come…. you must be prepared” (vv. 42-44). 

9. The Liturgy of the Word today focuses on the “eschaton,” the end of time: the sovereignty of the Lord, his reign of justice in the heavenly Jerusalem; the uncertainties of the eschaton – our total ignorance of the Lord’s coming, and the need for our constant preparedness. But we do know that the Lord has come. 

We commemorate with great joy his 1st coming at Christmas. We are given the opportunity during Advent to prepare our minds and hearts to welcome him. In reality, the eschaton comes to us  at the moment of our death, the day and the hour of which we know not. Let us be ready.

10. Prayer — Almighty God, St. Paul teaches us to run forth to meet Christ, your Son, with righteous deeds at his coming. Grant us, your faithful, we pray, the grace to renew our minds and hearts and to put on Christ, so that we may be worthy to meet him in the heavenly kingdom. This we ask through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Today’s Collect, adapted). 

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!