Advent begins on Sunday 1st December, which is convenient for remembering.
But what should we be remembering for a fruitful commemoration of Advent?
What is Advent for?
Here are five things to remember about Advent:
NUMBER ONE: Anticipation
According to the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, “Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” It is the liturgical season during which Catholics anticipate the Christmas solemnities with joyful expectation.
Unlike her liturgical sister Lent, Advent may be mostly dressed in purple, but she is not a penitential season. This knowledge may help as we drift through a seemingly endless and guilt-laden series of end-of-year and Christmas parties.
It should also help to know that Advent is a series of milestones that lead to the birth of Our Saviour. The Elect do not drift towards their salvation; it is anticipated and planned.
You know ‘the time’ has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted (Rom 13:11) – First Sunday of Advent, Roman Rite
NUMBER 2: Two Comings
Properly speaking, Catholics prepare for not one, but two comings of Christ throughout Advent.
The first is the birth of the Christ child at Bethlehem, foretold by the prophets. The second is the same Christ’s definitive return at the end of time.
O people of Sion, behold,
the Lord will come to save the nations,
and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard
in the joy of your heart (cf. Is 30:19, 30).
Second Sunday of Advent, Roman Missal
NUMBER 3: Fortify Through Perseverance
Careful observers of seasons past will recall that the priest wears rose-coloured vestments on the Third Sunday of Advent.
Commonly referred to as Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday, the special function of this Holy Day to is fortify the faithful in perseverance; to not lose heart, for the day of the Lord is coming without fail.
In the Gospel for this day, Jesus famously declares his cousin, St John the Baptist, to be the greatest man born of a woman. Less famously, but more to Our Lord’s point, Jesus says, “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is” (Matt 11:11).
Jesus loves his little ones, especially those suffering loss, grief and anguish.
They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended (Is 35:10).
Third Sunday of Advent, Roman Rite
NUMBER 4: Littleness
Advent is a season for hobbits who, according to Gandalf’s assessment in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, exercise power by “small acts of kindness and love.”
In his homily for Christmas Midnight Mass in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI characterised God’s condescension to mankind in the person of a child as “begging” for our love.
Calculated to appeal to our natural human longing for closeness, God makes himself as little as possible – a vulnerable baby – so that we may take him up in our arms and love him uninhibitedly.
Imagine that! Though he is God, Jesus comes to us clothed in littleness.
The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: a maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means “God-is-with-us” (Is 7:14). –Fourth Sunday of Advent, Roman Rite
NUMBER 5: Opportunity for Penance
Advent may not be a penitential season, but there are opportunities for penance that should be part and parcel of the “devout and expectant delight” of the season.
First, each of the Fridays of Advent is a day of penance. According to the norms set out by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in conformity with canon 1253 of the Code of Canon Law, the Church obliges the faithful to do an act of penance by way of prayer, self-denial or helping others on most Fridays of the year.
Second, there is the traditional First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in reparation for the sins of all mankind, to take place on 6 December. Some are calling for a special First Friday commemoration to unite in prayer for the Church through recitation of the Rosary, fasting and/or abstinence, and making both the Consecration to the Sacred Heart and Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Third, the Ember Days for Advent are offered on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (18, 20 & 21 December) prior to Christmas Day. Ember Days have been revived in recent times, but have a long history in the Catholic Church. Traditionally, they are held four times each year: during Lent, after Pentecost, around the time of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and during Advent around the Feast of St Lucy. Hence, the timing of the Ember Days could be remembered easily by the mnemonic, Lenty, Penty, Crucy and Lucy.
Advent really is a devout and expectant delight.
In Australia we have the added delight of end-of-the-year wind down and Summer holidays to look forward to.
The challenge is to joyfully embrace the season as Catholics, rather than as our secular neighbours.
How does your family celebrate Advent?
Share in the comments below…