Sunday marks the advent or arrival of the first season of the Christian year leading up to Christmas and the four preceding Sundays. Advent is the beginning of the church year and it is interesting to note that, in the Catholic tradition, we are at the beginning of the 3-year cycle with Year A. Each cycle contains different readings from the Old and New Testament, Psalms and Gospel so essentially we read the entire bible every three years. The Sunday Mass readings are covered in three years, Cycle A, B, and C. The daily Mass readings are covered in a two year cycle. To really hear the majority of scripture at Mass you would need to attend daily Mass for two years and Sunday Mass for three.
As the new liturgical year begins, Christians are called and invited to examine their lives and reflect on how they can become more Christ-like and selfless. It’s less about Me and My and what I want for myself and more about We and Us and how can I help someone else. Better yet, we can ask the question, what does God want for my life? In a society that encourages to only look out for ourselves first, we are challenged by the Gospel to bring Christ’s light to others.
This liturgical season is all about light and darkness as outlined in the Scripture readings, hymns, vestment and liturgical colors and we are told to prepare a way for the Lord. “…it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the days is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;” (Rom 13: 11-12). Light helps dispel the darkness. Light the traditional Advent candles for each Sunday of Advent to keep track of the weeks before Christmas and to remind us of what the season is about.
Light a candle for the first Sunday of Advent. Violet reminds us of the penitential aspect, while the pink candle represents joy on the third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete Sunday.
Advent is both a joyful and penitential season of preparation for the Lord’s coming where we remember the Lord’s first coming during the Solemnities of Christmas and a preparing of our hearts and minds to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matt 24: 42).
How can the end of time ever cross our minds? Do we even think that all life on earth will ever end? Perhaps, not in our time on earth. But it will end for us individually someday. It’s hard to focus on anything at this time of year with all the activities, parties, decorating, events, shopping, etc. between Thanksgiving and Christmas but somehow the penetrating darkness of the season, where the winter solstice marks the shortest time of daylight for the year, helps us draw inward. It is the perfect time to SLOW DOWN! Yes, you heard that right. It is OK to sit in silence to be with our inner-most thoughts and confront ourselves or to pray and listen to God speaking in our lives.
Advent can also be a time to reach out to others, the homeless and the downtrodden, even our own family members, and in doing so, lift their spirits as well as ours a little closer to heaven. It is also a wonderful time to attend daily Mass as the readings and hymns are beautiful and help us along the path to Christ’s birth. Check to see what Mass time fits in with your work schedule. Attending morning Mass helps set the tone for the day. Try it!
Suggested Paths to a Meaningful Advent
- Attend a weekday Mass
- Attend an Advent retreat for spiritual nourishment
- Attend a tree lighting ceremony
- Get involved with Liturgy
- Decorate your home for Advent with an Advent wreath and candles and with the liturgical color of the season, violet.
- Pray the rosary or a novena
- Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours with a group of people
- Lectio Divina (reading Scripture and meditating upon the Word of God)
- When watching TV, mute the commercials as most of them are loud and there are so many of them. Better yet turn off the TV and read a spiritual book while sipping a cup of tea or go for a long walk.
- Turn off the lights and make the room as dark as possible. Keep your eyes open to the silent, darkened room. Remain this way for a period of time. Meditate on the dark areas of your life where you need to wake up from the darkness, things that are off-kilter in your life and that need light shed upon them. Notice how you feel when you come back to the light. Meditate on Jesus as the Lord of life and light.
- Pray for the special people in your life and ask God how you might interact with them more fully.
- Use your phone less.
- Clear clutter from your surroundings. It helps clear the mind.
- Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
- Smile–it is the season of joy!
- Sing Advent hymns
Advent Hymns to Google
O Come, O Come Emanuel
Let the King of Glory Come
Alleluia, Hurry the Lord is Near
Ready the Way
Cover photo: Shutter stock. Advent candle and Christmas tree photo credit Mary Perkins.