The Season of Advent
What are we really waiting for during Advent? The longstanding tradition of the Church is that the Advent season really marks not one but three comings of Christ: his coming into history two thousand years ago, his coming in glory at the end of time, and his coming into our hearts here and now. Advent starts with a focus on the future coming of Christ so that we might see the big picture. We hear John the Baptist in the Gospels tell how best to prepare for Christ’s coming. He urges repentance and an examination and reform of our way of life.
Then on the Fourth Sunday, we are drawn in to the history of Jesus’ arrival as the child of Joseph and Mary. Our work of spiritual preparation brings us to the point of the whole season. What good is it that Christ comes into my heart if I don’t then carry that presence out into the world, just as Mary did? Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co., Inc.
How can we prepare our homes in anticipation of Christ’s arrival at Christmas? One way is with an Advent calendar that counts off the days leading up to Christmas. Most made of paper or wood begin with December 1; others start the First Sunday of Advent November 27, which begins the liturgical season of Advent. Calendars come in a multitude of forms with manger scenes, St. Nicholas, winter scenes, and other themes. Some have fabric pockets or doors for the days leading up to Christmas, each opened to reveal an image, a bible verse or part of the Nativity story, or a small gift such as a toy or chocolate. The anticipation builds as Christmas draws near.
An Advent Wreath is another way that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent. Often it is a circular evergreen wreath representing God’s infinite love. Four candles represent the four weeks of Advent, as well as the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Christ. Three purple candles signify the penitential nature of the season, as we prepare ourselves; one pink candle signifies the joy of the season. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit on each subsequent Sunday until the last, when all four candles are lit. Many families keep this tradition in their homes, while Advent Wreaths are lit each Sunday in many churches.
The music of Advent at Mass is special, reserved only for this time of year. Songs invite us and herald the coming of our Savior – O Come, O Come Emmanuel!