What is Advent?
The Modern Catholic Dictionary, by Fr. John A. Hardon, tells us that Advent is, “A period of prayer in preparation for Christmas, including four Sundays, the first nearest the feast of St. Andrew, November 30. It is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year (Etym. Latin adventus, a coming, approach, arrival.).”
Advent is a time of preparation for and anticipation of the coming of the Lord that we celebrate on Christmas Day. It is an opportunity to place ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish people who waited so long for the coming of the Messiah. It is an opportunity to renew our appreciation for the Incarnation, the moment when the Son of God became man, one like us in all things but sin. Advent takes on a somber tone, similar to Lent, because our minds are focused on what life is like without Christ, without God’s entrance into our world. Of course, in waiting for this coming of the Lord, Advent takes on an eschatological tone as well since, as Christians, we also await the Second Coming, when Jesus will come again and make all things new.
Unfortunately, the same world that God so desired to save can often squelch the spirit of Advent that we are called to embrace. If we are anxious it is not for the coming of the Lord, it is because traffic to the mall is backed up, Wal-Mart is all out of Nintendo Wii’s, and the kids are yelling in the back seat because they want to go see Santa Claus. It’s easy in times like this to forget what Christmas is really all about. This is where Advent comes in. Once we understand Advent for what it is truly mean to be, it can be the antidote to the stress that often accompanies the holiday season. Advent calls us to refocus are minds back to what is important and to remember again the true reason for the season. Over 2,000 years ago, God asked a virgin a simple question: “Will you let me use you to bring my Son to the world? Will you give me your flesh, your life, your time, your entire being?” In a sense, this is the same question that God asks us today, and Advent is a time to prepare ourselves so that when God wishes to come through us, we like Mary, will be able to say “Yes” to Him.
Let us also remember that with Advent’s past significance (in the Incarnation) and future significance (in the Second Coming) is also a present reality. Jesus comes, here and now, whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. In a sense, every Mass is a new Advent, and it only makes sense that, during this time of preparation, we should remain close to Christ in the Eucharist. It is in that advent that He is preparing us for the advent that awaits the end of time.
Peace of Christ to you,
Nicholas Hardesty, WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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