Pastor Column: The First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
Dear friends / Estimados amigos,
Are you ready for a new year? The liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent summons us to enter into a new liturgical year, which this year will highlight readings from Luke’s gospel as the Church begins reading from the C Cycle on Sundays and Cycle 1 during the week. Advent is the liturgical season in the West that kicks off the year on the Sunday closest to November 30th, which is the feast day of the first-called apostle, St. Andrew. It includes the four Sundays before Christmas.
Advent is all about waiting for Jesus Christ. The very word comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming or arrival. It is a period of anticipatory joy as all of us prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ coming among us. The next four weeks are often thought of as symbolizing the different ways that Jesus comes into the world: (1) His birth in history as a helpless infant at Bethlehem; (2) His arrival in the hearts of believers; (3) His Passion and death; and (4) his coming on the Day of Judgment. The last of these comings will be a time of fulfillment of the mystery initiated in the first coming at Bethelem. Unlike the Scriptural accounts in the weeks before the celebration of Christ the King, the arrival of Jesus at the end of time in the Advent Scriptures is an arrival not to be feared, but desired. The Lord will come in glory as king, vindicating the just at the Last Judgment and offering salvation to the just and the faithful. The Advent scriptures make us mindful of the ways we wait for the Savior – past, present and future.
Have you ever noticed that because Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, the fourth week of Advent is never finished? It is abruptly but solemnly bumped by the annual celebration of the coming of Jesus at Christmas. Similarly, His second coming will abruptly interrupt our days on Earth at a time in the future we cannot know. The coming of Jesus within us, nurtured by the reception of His body and blood, a healthy prayer life, and a conscious attempt to live the Gospel in our current circumstances, is a deep personal experience of Christ growing within us. That makes this time we start today a season of personal hope and potential, of blessed spiritual beginnings. The English word adventure is also rooted in the Latin word for the season.
The Advent Scriptures have a certain character of their own. They are selected and arranged to develop this character by way of themes which are essential to the unfolding of the liturgical season, the life of the Church, and the lives of its members. These themes are:
- Week 1: the announcement of the coming of the Lord at the end of time, and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. The stress is on the “joyful hope” as we await the period when all things will be one in God through Jesus Christ. We will see God in all God’s fullness.
- Weeks 2 and 3: readings are primarily a concentration on the life of John the Baptist, particularly his witness to Jesus as the anointed one of God. His witness is a model for Christians of today to testify to the Word made flesh in all that we say and do.
- Week 4: These days treat the events that led directly to Jesus’ birth. They detail our spiritual “family tree,” reminding us that God concretely acts in human history. Not only does God intervene, but in the Incarnation God actually chooses to become human and share in the human condition.
Our supernatural life, i.e., the art of us that will endure, has its beginnings in Bethlehem. Advent tells us that it is not only Jesus who is born, but each of us who bear His name as well.