by DioceseofVenice | November 22, 2017 12:22 pm
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With the calendar approaching December, the Church will soon begin the Season of Advent. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year, commences this year on Sunday, Dec. 3. Because Christmas falls on a Monday this year, the Season will come to an end on Sunday, Dec. 24, making it one of the shortest possible Advent Seasons.
Advent is a season of preparation and expectation. The Church describes Advent as a season “of devout and expectant delight.” In Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, the Church says, “Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, with remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time” (39). In Advent, we look forward not only to the commemoration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, but also to his return.
This twofold focus is expressed clearly in one of the prayers used at Mass from the beginning of Advent through Dec. 16. The prayer reads, “For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which we now dare to hope.” (Preface I of Advent).
At the beginning of Advent, the Church focuses particularly on preparation for Christ’s return, praying, for example, in the Opening Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent, that we might have “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, [we] may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” The readings during the First Sunday of Advent also look to Christ’s return. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus exhorts us to be watchful and alert, saying, “You do not know when the time will come.”
As the season draws near to Christmas, however, its focus turns more fully to Christ’s first coming at the Nativity. In the week immediately preceding Christmas, the Gospel readings are drawn from the first chapter of Matthew and the first chapter of Luke. The first part of the story of the Nativity is told, including the Annunciation and the birth of John the Baptist, and include the great canticles, the Magnificat and the Benedictus. This year, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Church will hear the story of the Annunciation to Mary. These stories help us to ready our hearts to remember and celebrate our Lord’s birth during the Christmas Season.
December is undoubtedly a busy month; our days become filled with external preparations for Christmas, such as shopping, decorating, cooking, and attending Christmas parties. It is easy to allow the spiritual preparation, to which each of us is called during the Advent Season, to slip through the cracks. It is important, then, to make an effort during the upcoming season to pray and reflect on the comings of Christ, both past and future.
There are many opportunities available to make Advent a period of prayerful preparation. One noteworthy practice is to set up an Advent wreath in your home. The wreath may be blessed on the First Sunday of Advent using the prayer found on the USCCB website (http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/sacramentals-blessings/objects/blessing-of-an-advent-wreath.cfm). On the following days, the family might gather around the wreath for daily prayer, including the recitation of the opening prayer of the Sunday Mass for the current week of Advent, an Advent hymn, and an appropriate Scripture reading, possibly from the readings for the day. Other practices to mark Advent as a time of preparation might include:
As we enter into this Advent season, may we prepare ourselves so that we can devoutly make our prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Let us be united in prayer during the Advent Season.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Bishop Frank J. Dewane
“Upcoming Holy Days of Obligation”
In addition to Sundays, Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on several other Holy Days of Obligation. In the month of December, Catholics must attend Mass on Friday, Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and on Monday, Dec. 25, the Solemnity of the Nativity. Because the Jan. 1, 2018, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God falls on a Monday, the obligation to attend Mass is lifted.
Please note the obligations to attend Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas must be satisfied by attendance at two separate Masses. Attendance at one Mass on Christmas Eve does not satisfy both obligations.
Source URL: http://dioceseofvenice.org/advent-a-season-of-preparation-and-expectation/
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