The Catholic Church is fast approaching one of the most important seasons of the Liturgical Year: Advent. It is a time which offers us a sense of preparation for the second coming of the Christ Child.
With the pre-Christmas frenzy, it is important to remain watchful. Why? Because, as St. Augustine stated, one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a thousand things and not to notice God.
Advent begins on Nov. 28, 2021, the start of the new Liturgical Year, therefore it is appropriate to begin anew and raise one’s heart and mind to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and prepare for the celebration of the anniversary of the Lord’s birth.
“A time of deep prayer and meditation, Advent has an anticipatory mood in which the faithful must learn from the Old Testament of how the Prophets foretold the coming of Jesus into the world,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “As our ancestors prepared their hearts spiritually for His coming, so must we prepare ourselves in the Season of Advent for the second coming.”
The main focus of the Advent Season is preparation through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained. Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge, but we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day.
“This will allow the love of God to fill one’s life and one’s family with joy,” Bishop Dewane said.
Pope Francis stresses that Advent is both a time of “God’s closeness and our watchfulness.”
The Holy Father notes that on the First Sunday of Advent, a new Liturgical Year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. “In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ.
The Pope invites everyone to live this time of preparation in the Season of Hope, with “great sobriety” and simple moments of family prayer. “Advent is a continuous call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
During Advent, we are reminded that we are called to redouble our efforts to bring Christ’s saving message to all people. How can this be done? A few simple suggestions:
- Liturgy: Seek Christ in the Sacred Liturgy and in the intercessions of His saints. The Advent Season offers a number of special feasts and solemnities that call for our active participation. Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates the two Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) which is observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas on Dec. 12. We also ask for the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They modeled for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to Heaven.
- Prayer: Spend time every day in prayer and include the work of the local Parish and of the Diocese in these prayer intentions. Offer up daily sacrifices for the good of others. This time of prayer and sacrifice should intensify as we draw near Christmas, with particular prayers given to us by the Church from December 17 to Christmas Eve to prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior.
- Confession: One of the most critical ways to prepare one’s soul for the birth of Jesus at Christmas is to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Holy Season is an ideal time to open one’s soul and to be set free from the burdens of past sins and wrongs. Many Parishes offer special times during Advent for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Volunteer: Another way to grow in Faith through this season is to recognize Christ in neighbors, especially those in need such as the elderly and sick. Get involved and give of yourself in some work of the Church, possibly evangelization, education, or charity. Use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to accompany those in need and help them draw closer to Christ. We are to be doers of our Faith on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ and all those around us.
Bishop Dewane said, “As Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”