This week we begin the beautiful season of Advent. This is the first season of the Church year and we joyfully anticipate the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the beauty of this season is often lost in the preparations for Christmas. Tree decorating, parties and shopping seem to be the overriding focus rather than the interior conversion and preparation for Immanuel “God is with us”. We are to expect the Messiah. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’
To prepare ourselves properly for the arrival of the Messiah we must focus, in a most particular way, on the interior conversion of our hearts. This is why Advent, like Lent, is a penitential season. From the 4th century, the season was kept as a period of fasting and abstinence as strict as in Lent. This has been lessened, but while fasting is no longer mandated, it is still a good and praiseworthy act, which I would encourage you to practice. Additionally, the vestments are purple and the Mass has less singing. This is also why the Gloria is no longer sung. What joy we will have when we hear it again at Christmas.
During Advent, it is easy to get caught up in the celebration of Christmas, but this Advent, let us not miss the wonderful opportunity to grow closer to God. Let us reflect on our lives, make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and allow the Season of Advent to penetrate our hearts. May we truly use the next four weeks to prepare for the arrival of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Your servant in Christ,