Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Sunday of Advent: "Be vigilant at all times"

Jeremiah 33. 14-16; Psalm 25. 4-5, 8-10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3. 12-4. 2; Luke 21. 25-28, 34-36
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Archbishop Wuerl of Washington once made the humorous observation that “one knows it’s time for Halloween when the Christmas decorations come out” in the stores.
This sad commentary on the power of merchandising over the proper and meaningful celebration of the seasons of life and the mysteries of our Faith is all too true. We are reminded of this every year as we observe once again the clash of colors between Advent violet in our churches and Christmas red splashed liberally beyond the doors of our places of worship. And, again, the temptation arises for some to complain about the situation or to see this phenomenon as another in a growing list of reasons to turn away from the world.
Advent, the season of preparation in the Church, provides a dramatic counterpoint over against a world that ends the celebration of the Savior’s birth precisely on the day it should begin, having commenced the observance months prematurely. Such superficial “cheer” spurs us all the more to love and embrace the yet unredeemed world that stills lacks, and waits unknowingly, for what it most truly needs.
Advent, with its very name, “the coming”, is a yearly season of the Church’s life that invites us to explore once again the important virtue of patience accompanied by prayer. For the faithful there is not a simple “waiting” but rather an active anticipation by prayer, penance and almsgiving. The Lord engages with the world through His Body to work out the salvation of all creation. The Holy Spirit, our companion on the way of faith, is the Divine person who “inspires” us to return again and again to the truth that salvation is not something for which we passively wait in this world, but a reality that has begun already for us in the Church.
The Holy Spirit, the “animator”, soul, or divine Indweller of Jesus’ Body the Church, guarantees for us that we live now already the very life and mysteries of the Savior. This takes place liturgically, in the living proclamation and true presence of the Incarnate Word in our liturgy.

“For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church's liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.” (CCC 1095)

The Word of God is “living and active” and nowhere more so than when it is proclaimed in the most “living” way at holy Mass. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church makes real and effective, once again, the historical events of salvation history. The Advent mysteries of the Lord’s incarnation are thus re-presented so that we can take a living and active part in them. The preparation for His coming with this season no less:

“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’" (CCC 524)

How important for us is His coming? No less important for us then the preparation for the “advent” of so great a divine Savior. It is the reasonableness of this truth that is our privilege to live and teach the world in Advent. We are thus as a leaven so that all of society and every human person may “rise” with the Bread of Life who really and truly became present among us and ever comes among us again the His Eucharist as the Risen One. He became incarnate to become Sacrifice. He is present among us to save us.

Our Advent violet is a calling to joy for the world, for one must truly prepare for what one hopes to truly receive. The Church lives as a sign of hope in this Advent season once again in the midst of a world in need of redemption. Let us go forth to celebrate the real joy that Advent brings, the authentic coming of the Lord and Savior, as one who will live in our hearts and minds by grace upon His coming at Christmas. If we would do that, we must prepare the way. "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths!"

I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy"---Father Cusick

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Image: The Holy Father inaugurates the use of his new pastoral cross, or ferule, at first vespers for the first Sunday of Advent.

No comments: