The first Sunday of Advent is a good time for us to renew our reflections. The defunct blog we attempted a couple of years ago will hopefully rise to this new opportunity, encouraged by our Holy Father as part of the “Year of Faith”. The intention is to provide space for a weekly reflection as part of the bulletin. You will also be able to read these online. Please understand that there will likely be many times when we will have to resort to “guests” to fill in if I get behind.
Advent is filled with many symbols, some of them appropriate to the season and having an ancient origin. Others don’t belong to it at all, but have firmly planted themselves in a new home like a department store Santa Clause. We think of Advent candles, Children’s pageants and special musical performances that go along with this first season of the Church. The attention we pay them is oftentimes hurried, as if the waiting for extra chores or anticipating something maniacal that might be pushing the intended good out of the season. And so, we light all the candles at once to be sure that we have done this or another custom, just in case. We give the season lip service, out of a reasonable fear that everything about Advent will be swallowed up in a shopping frenzy.
So if the season is to be saved what must the valiant do? As with all things we must first build (or rebuild) a foundation. The whole year has the same need to be remodeled. One of great contributions that Vatican II gave the church was to rediscover the sacred character of our worship. This is not a simple task, and one that requires a better grasp of many things, including the language of faith. Simply put, the Church is drawn into an experience of God’s presence. He is here with us. And because that is true about this season, that he is present, he makes the Year sacred.
Pope St. Leo the Great (died 468) provides us a glimpse into the past, as we carry with us certain questions about how the Church Year can make much of a difference.
“Beloved, the remembrance of what the Savior did for mankind is most useful to us, provided that what we venerate in faith we also receive and imitate. For in the communication of the mysteries of Christ to us, there is present both the power of grace and the encouragement which teaching gives, so that we may follow by out deeds him whom we confess in the spirit of faith.”
This is the desperately-held center of our faith, where things of the past meet things of the future, the timeless realities of the years as they pass more quickly each changing season. During the celebration of the Year we are enabled by the saints to share in the mysteries of Christ. For example, St. Francis invented the Christmas Crib to display for his villagers in Assisi what they could not imagine - God laid to rest in a manger. And all the other little scenes that do in fact help us to see and understand what happened long ago. Again St. Leo will help us:
“All that the Son of God did and taught for the reconciliation of the world we not only know through the narration of past events; we also experience the effects of it in virtue of these present deeds, the sacraments.”
In the weeks of Advent let us all, with enthusiasm, seek a greater understanding and experience of our encounter with Jesus Christ.