Why Celebrate Advent?
Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible while the other two are visible. In the first coming He was seen on earth, dwelling among men; … in the final coming "all flesh will see the salvation of our God and they will look upon Him whom they have pierced". The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.
In His first coming our Lord came in our flesh and our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and in majesty.
Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last."
St. Bernard of Clairveaux
Advent has begun! Our family, like millions throughout the world, brought the advent candles out of storage and set it them in a prominent place on the mantle.
As often as is practicable over these four weeks preceding Christmas, we will gather as a family, light a candle, recite a prayer and sing together- inviting the coming of the Lord into our lives. So will Christians everywhere. In a western culture where the influences of Christian traditions are waning, many are asking why?
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin words, ad-venio or adventus, which both signify a coming. It is a liturgical season in the Church that has birthed customs in Catholic life. These customs form a framework, a texture that brings faith to life. They form a pattern that moves us forward in the process that is Christian life.
The celebration of Advent dates back to the fourth century. Through the history of the Western Church it has become a significant part of the pattern of life, faith, culture and worship that is Catholic Christianity.
For four special weeks preceding the great celebration of the Incarnation, the Nativity of the Lord Jesus, ("Christ-Mass"), Christians (Catholics and others) are invited by the Church to prepare, to "get ready", to make a place for the Lord in our lives and in our homes, to anticipate His coming(s).
Again this year my family will attend the Sunday Vigil Mass and we will sing the ever-familiar hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". That song will become the backdrop of the season, sticking in our minds both individually and collectively. I know the tune will be hummed incessantly and do what music does when it is repeated, get down deep into our subconscious. It may even become "annoying"- as music can. However, even that annoyance, gets to the root of Catholic life and faith. It is, as they say in the Internet world, "granular" Christianity, filled with practices that root themselves experientially into your bones.
Catholicism is "earthy", "real", "incarnational" Christianity.
Before long the "liturgical air" will be filled with the beautiful "O Antiphons", which are taken from the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures, in the Prophetic and Wisdom Books. They will be sung as a part of the formal "Liturgy of the Hours" beginning seven days before the Vigil of Christmas.
These short prayers in the “Liturgy of the Hours”, or Breviary, which all clergy, most religious orders, and an increasing numbers of lay men and women use as the structure for daily prayer throughout the western Catholic world, are also a part of the treasury of Catholic life. This liturgy forms a foundation for our faith together and places us in the heart of a Church that stretches back two thousand years and forward to the final coming.
As a Deacon of the Church, I will wear lavender vestments when I serve at the altar. Lavender is a color that connotes both repentance, and expectation. These are the "heart", the "spirit" of the season. Advent is a time to "get ready" and to build up the hope within our hearts for the promised coming of Jesus Christ! We do so by repenting of our sin and renouncing our wrong choices. We empty ourselves of the clutter of daily idolatry and renounce the self love that can so easily squeeze God’s grace out of our lives
Every year, Catholic Christians repeat together-experientially- through our "liturgy" (which means the "work" of worship), the pattern of the Christian life. We walk through the great events of Christian history, corporate and individual, and we inculcate the "mystery" that is the Christian faith more deeply within our “nitty-gritty” lives in the real world.
We build a "way" -a pattern- of daily Christian living with these customs, practices, and celebrations. During Advent, the Church, as a mother, calls us all to get ready, to clean the house, to set special times aside, so that we will be ...
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