From Leonard Piasta our Faith Formation Chairperson
The Season of Advent - Waiting for the Light
The liturgical season of Advent for this year of 2020 begins at Evening Prayer l of the Liturgy of the Hours of the First Sunday of Advent, November 28. Advent ends before Evening Prayer l of the Solemnity of Christmas December 24, Christmas Eve. The word "Advent" comes from the latin "adventus" which translates; arrival and approach. The word Advent refers to the liturgical period preceding the celebration of Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ into the world and the second coming of Christ at the end of time. The First Sunday of Advent marks the new liturgical year for the Church.
The four Sundays of Advent gospel readings bring to light an anticipation of an event that will occur. The First Sunday's gospel reading tells us to "Stay awake! You never know when the Lord will come." The Second Sunday's gospel presents John the Baptist preparing a way for the Lord. The Third Sunday's gospel reading has John the Baptist testifing of one who is to come, and, the Fourth Sunday's gospel reading is the story of the Annunciation.
During the season of Advent the Gloria is omitted during Mass. The hymns reflect a tone of anticipation and waiting for an arrival. The liturgical colors change from green to violet for the First, Second and Fourth Sundays of Advent and rose for the Third Sunday of Advent. The Third Sunday of Advent is know as "Gaudette" or rejoice Sunday. On the First Sunday of Advent is the blessing and lighting of the first candle of the Advent wreath. The following Sundays another candle is lit.
A liturgical change happened after Vatican ll (1962-1965) for the period of Advent. Advent is to be a celebrated with a spirit of hope and joy in contrast to Lent which is built upon a somber tone of penance, fasting and almsgiving. Advent gives us the time to prepare for the celebration of Jesus' first coming into the world and the hope and promise of the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents, "When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah. For by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's (John the Baptist) birth and martydom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decease." (Jn 3:30) #524
The theme for Advent this year is "waiting for the light." This Advent let us be waiting for the light in a spirit of hope, faith, joy and peace.
The Advent Wreath - Waiting for the Light
The Advent wreath is part of our Catholic tradition during the Advent season. The Advent wreath is a symbol of our waiting for the light. We read in the story of creation, Gn 1:3, "Then God said, "Let there be light' and there was light." In the Gospel of John's Prologue, "Whatever came to be in him, found life, life for the light of men. The light shines on in the darkness. A darkness that did not overcome it." (Jn 1:4-5) And in Jn 1:6-9, we read of John the Baptist giving witness and testifying to the light and professing the real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world.
As daylight dwindles during December, we use various means to prolong light in our lives. The Advent wreath has become part of our spiritual preparation for Christmas with the lighting of the candles, waiting for the light. The wreath made of evergreen branches signifies continuous life. The circle of evergreens has no beginning and no end symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and eternal life. The four candles represent the four Sundays leading to Christmas. The three violet colored candles represent our prayers, penance, good works, and preparation for Christmas. The rose-colored candle calls us to rejoice because we are half the way through Advent. The progressive lighting of the candles reminds us of expectation and hope because of the birth of Jesus into the world and the Second Coming of Christ.
We can celebrate Advent in our homes with an Advent wreath. Advent wreaths can be purchased or constructed. To construct use evergreen branches and form into a round wreath. The greenery can be decorated with natural items like pinecones and seedpods as well as ribbon and bows. Secure well the evergreens to a base and secure well three violet/purple candles and one rose/pink candle to the base. Place the rose/pink candle opposite the First Sunday's candle. The Advent wreath is blessed only once on at the first lighting of the Advent wreath. Children can also construct a paper Advent wreath from items like colored construction paper, toilet paper rolls. Use yellow paper flames and added to the candles each week. Have special Advent dinners with prayers and the lighting of the wreath during Advent as we wait for the light.
The following is a short blessing for your Advent wreath.
Make the sign of the cross.
Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Resp: Who made heaven and earth.
Read the following passage from the Prophet Isiah 9:1-2, 5-6.
Leader: Lord God,
your Church joyfully awaits the coming of its Savior,
who enlightens our hearts
and dispels the darkness of ignorance and sin.
Pour forth your blessing upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath;
may their light reflect the splendor of Christ,
who is Lord, for ever and ever.
(From the Book of Blessings)
The Advent Calendar - Waiting for the Light
An Advent Calendar is another means to count down the days to Christmas as we wait for the light. These calendars can be purchased with various themes and offer tiny gifts or candy for each day of Advent when that day door or window is opened. Some people construct their personal Advent calendar with a bibical saying, a scripture reading or an action of kindness or service do perform that day. An Advent Calendar can be enjoyed by all the members of a family.
Waiting for the Light with Prayers, Fasting and Alms
The period of Advent should be days and nights of hope, joy and expectation with prayers, fasting and almsgiving. St. Augustine (354-430) tells us that fasting and almsgiving are the two wings of prayer. They are the signs of humility and charity. St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253) says, "Satisfaction consists in cutting off the causes of the sin, thus, fasting is the proper antidote to lust; prayers to pride, to envy, anger and sloth; alms to covetousness."
Prayer during Advent can be praying the rosary with the Joyful Mysteries. the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. St. Andrew's Christmas Novena, celebrating the Sacrament of Penance, some silent time or a heartfelt prayer of hope, faith, joy, and peace.
Devotional reading gives us material to deepen our faith. Some suggestions are "The Little Blue Book for Advent," "Living Faith - Daily Catholic Devotions and there are a number of other available Advent themed devotional publications. There are also some online sites such as mycatholic.life/advent and adventcatholiconline. During the month of December there are saints' feast days such as St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Francis Xavier. Read up on the lives of the saints. Also, during December we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the feats of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During Advent is a good time to fast a day or two a week. Each week offer up your fasting for those who are sick, suffering or dying and those with Covid-19, the poor, the needy the hungry and the homeless, families in crises, for religious vocations and the souls in purgatory. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults state, "... such activities of sacrifice also help us to grow in self-discipline and holiness." (p.335)
Almsgiving presents us the opportunity to give to another who is in need. Some acts to do during Advent are the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Monetary donations to organizations that help those in need are always welcomed and are in need of donations all year long. Do not forget your parish donations and CSA pledge. With proper precautions donate your time or your expertise to a service organization. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, "He who gives alms should do so generously, ..., he who performs works of mercy should do so cheerfully." (Rm 12:8)
In waiting for the light, "For God said, 'Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor 4:6)
The Domestic Church
In Unleash the Gospel, the pastoral letter from Archbishop Vigneron presents, "The family is the "domestic church" - the primary social unit which life in Christ, the life of the church, is experienced and lived." (Guide Post 7 - Families) "The family lives it's spirituality precisely by being at one and the same time a domestic church and a vital cell for the transforming the world." (Amoris Laetitia - Pope Francis) " Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst." (Mt18: 20)
During this "stay-at home" order, we can still be very active in practicing our faith in our domestic church. Though the parish web site, the Archdiocesean web site, other religious web sites of prayer and reflection, Mass for the shut-ins, private and family prayer (saying grace together at meals, pray the rosary, pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be or some other prayers that touch you) call or email someone and take time for silence in your life. We can use what is available to us and enjoy the presence of Jesus in our homes and families. We await the day when we will be able again to celebrate as a gathered community in Jesus Christ. Peace be with you.