Our Church begins a new liturgical year in Advent while at the same time prepares to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas. It is a time of joyful expectation and patient hope that calls us to direct our hearts and minds to the coming of Christ on his birth on Christmas and his second coming at the end of time.
Advent invites us to reflect on the three dimensions of time in our salvation. We gratefully remember the past when the Son of God came into the world and became “one with us.” Presently, we prepare and anticipate his future coming with hope. The Church teaches us that Christ promised “to come again in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end.”
As this current liturgical year ends, we look back sadly at the trials and tribulations we went through in the preceding months: the illnesses and death caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the strife arising from so many instances of social injustice and racial inequality, and the strained and polarized relationships with friends and family members caused by political and ideological differences.
The new season helps us to look closer at life to find joy and reasons to celebrate. There is new life and rebirth from newborn babies, from those who proclaim the truth to change an unjust system, from hope inspired by the heroism and sacrifices of health care workers, and from those who pray and work to end the scourge of abortion, poverty and the recent rash of federal executions.
Let us then broaden our perspective of life to be able to see God’s promise of blessings and hope. We cannot allow trials and tribulations to distract our attention, or let worldly allurements consume us. These are fleeting and do not define the Almighty’s divine presence. Instead, we must stay awake, remain vigilant and always be ready as we look forward to the coming of our Savior. Let our prayer be, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and let us ask him to deliver us from sin and bring us his salvation.
During this period of preparation, an Advent calendar and the Advent wreath remind us to pray. The circular green wreath is symbolic of God's infinite or unending love; the three purple and one rose candles represent the four weeks before Christmas; the white candle in the center of the wreath symbolizes Christ, who brought the light of God to mankind through His birth, death and resurrection. Violet is the traditional color of the Advent season’s penitential mode, of penance and sacrifice, calling us to recognize our sins and acknowledge our need for repentance and reconciliation to prepare our hearts for Christmas.
On the third week of Advent we celebrate “Gaudete Sunday,” from the Latin word for rejoice, the first word of the entrance prayer for the Mass on that day. The rose-colored candle for Gaudete Sunday represents anticipation and rejoicing – appropriate sentiments for the week before the birth of Christ.
Advent opens the door for renewal in our faith journey as we live our baptismal call to proclaim God’s salvation and bring about God’s kingdom on earth. As we experience God anew at Christmas, may we be inspired and empowered to go out and proclaim Christ’s gifts of love, joy and peace in our heart to the world.