Sunday, November 30, 2014
Following is the bulletin insert from my parents' church. HandyGramps emailed this to me & gave me permission to share it here on my blog. May you all have a wonderfully, blessed Advent!
ADVENT Year B
(November 30-December 21, 2014)
Advent is a struggle to balance the spiritual and the secular. First, as Christians, we see lying before us a four thousand year wait, encapsulated in the four weeks of Advent. Each week takes us ever closer to the “Reason for the Season” – the celebration of the birth of Christ. On the 1st Sunday of Advent (this is Year B of the three year cycle of readings), we have a sort of preamble that foreshadows the Second Coming of Christ. We are told to watch, for we do not know when the Master will return. That may seem to be getting things backward, starting with the end times; but it makes sense in that it reminds us of the reason for Christ coming in the first place, to open the way to eternal life for those who choose to follow Him. The 2nd Sunday of Advent presents us with the ministry of John the Baptist, heralding the coming of Christ’s ministry. John baptizes with water; Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent, the Gospel ends with John handing off the ministry of salvation to Jesus. We often refer to it as “John diminishes as Christ increases”. And, finally, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves hearing the story of the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that God has chosen her to bear His only Son whom she is to name Jesus. Mary graciously accepts the invitation, setting the stage for the Nativity.
Second, as a people bound for the moment by this world, we are surrounded by all the trappings of the holiday season – Santa Claus, Christmas trees, glimmering lights, presents, parties, etc. Despite their secular overtones, each of these carries an image of what Christmas is really all about, for they have a distinct connection to Christ. Santa Claus is derived from the generosity of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra. The evergreen tree represents eternal life. The gifts remind us of the Magi. And so on. But, these things are also wrapped in the cloak of commercialism, which can often distract us from their more spiritual dimension. The call of big profits urges stores to “go Christmas” earlier and earlier – even by late August artificial trees were already showing up in stores. By participating in the Advent liturgies we can pull ourselves away from the mundane and enter the miraculous. By celebrating the Advent Masses we can put the whole season in proper perspective. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with having a good time during such a joyful season. We just need to be mindful of the relative importance of the secular and the spiritual, understanding that in the end the spiritual trumps the secular mightily.
In the 2015 Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays published by Liturgy Training Publications, the introduction to the Advent Season points out that Advent enables us to focus on two aspects of the season. First is the immanence of God: “Christ is still taking on flesh and He is continually present through His Body, the Church.” If we look around us with the eyes of faith, we can see Christ everywhere. He is in the members of our families, where love and forgiveness and compassion are most closely present to us. We see Him in those who celebrate the liturgies with us, fellow travelers on the road to eternity. He is in the stranger who has a need that we can help fulfill. And don’t forget to look in the mirror; for you will see Him there.
Second, Advent reminds us of the last days, when the world will be completely transformed into the New Jerusalem, when all who have died will be resurrected to eternal life. The world as we know it will be gone, replaced by an existence of everlasting glory, where love will finally be absolute and unchanging and unconditional. Again, from the introduction, “Just as Christ came at Bethlehem and now lives in us, He will come again in the fullness of time when He will judge the living and the dead.”
So it is that Advent becomes a time of waiting, a time of expectation. We are cloaked in purple for three weeks (wearing rose on the 3rd Sunday in joyful anticipation that the time is near), more for introspection and resolution than for penance. If we can see the purple for what it is, the royal purple of kingship, we will be able to look within ourselves to see whether or not we are truly ready – even truly deserving – of the King who is to come. We will have the opportunity to guide our lives along the right path, hearing the voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”
In the midst of the Advent season, on December 8, we have the opportunity to celebrate one of the most profound doctrines of our Catholic faith, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation. (Note that it celebrates the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, not the conception of Jesus. Mary was conceived without original sin, a privilege accorded her in preparation for her willing acceptance of being the Mother of God.) In all three years of the liturgical cycle, the Gospel is the same – Luke’s story of the Annunciation (which this year will be repeated on the 4th Sunday of Advent). While it may seem unusual to “break into” a specific liturgical season, changing from purple to white, there is a distinct connection between the two. As Advent prepares us for the coming of Christ, the Annunciation is the very moment that sparks the purpose for Advent. It is in Mary’s free assent to the message brought by the angel Gabriel that God becomes Immanuel, God with us. It is by Mary’s declaration, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”, that God became incarnate in the Person of Christ.
It should be noted that this solemnity is the patronal feast day of the United States of America.