Once again we are at the end of the Church’s Liturgical Year. This is just a reminder that, the church’s liturgical year ends with the celebration of the feast of Christ the King which is usually on the fourth Sunday of November and the days following it till the evening prayer one of the first Sunday of Advent. This year’s own occurred with a “HAPPY FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING with God’s blessings to all.”
Often times we hear people say, I have hope or better still I have high hope that I will get this job, I will be healed , God will answer my prayer or favor me, and so on. So hope is more of positivity than negativity. It’s a dream reality.
The Catholic Church begins her New Year in 2018-2019 Liturgical Year on December 3rd, 2023. This is the first Sunday of Advent.
Many people are familiar with the word ADVENT.
Advent simply means Coming. It is from the Greek word Adventus.
In our day to day relationships and friendships, when someone is expecting a friend or an important visitor in his or her home, there are certain arrangements and preparation that are required. The person spends time, money and energy just to making sure that the visitor is comfortable and well taking care of.
All of these sacrifices are done because how important and loved this visitor is to her or him. So if we who are mortals can go at any length just to make our earthly visitor feel happy, relax, comfortable and loved, then how much will we welcome our heavenly and more than a visitor into our hearts, homes and our World.
Advent is a time of conscious waiting, expectation and preparation for the two comings of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. During His first coming, God the Father said “Whom shall I send” and God the Son said, “Send me.” He actually came to save His own, all of us. He grew up, suffered, died, was buried and He rose and went back to heaven. Now, we await His second coming in glory.
Origin: This is a belief that in the 4th and 5th Centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was regarded as a period where new converts are being prepared for baptism on Epiphany day and where after they become members of the church, as God’s Incarnation which was showcased by the visit of the three wise men, God the Son’s baptism in the River Jordan and also Jesus’ first miracle at Cana. In addition to this, Christians were expected to fast, observe some penance and pray more than usual.
The hierarchies of the Church in their wisdom launched into this different attributes of advent; to enflesh and make it more connected to the actual birth of Jesus Christ who was visited by the wise men; baptized in River Jordan and eventually performed His first miracle at Cana. Therefore, Advent traditionally marks the beginning of the Church’s year. It lasts for four weeks of ardent desires and hopes which stretches to December 25th the Birthday of our Lord and Savior. It usually starts on the nearest Sunday either before or after November 30th the feast of Saint Andrew the apostle. So every year expect the season of Advent between November 27th and December 3rd.
Every Advent reminds all Christians of Christ’s second coming. This is so pronounced within the first and second week of Advent. All the readings within these two weeks talk about the later days and Christ coming in the clouds and in glory. This is basically His second coming.
By and Large, advent brings to us unimaginable hope filled with much expectation. Such hope that darkness will be driven away by the Light of Christ, hope that righteousness will overthrow sin. This hope has two faces: the first face helps us to prepare ourselves daily while waiting for the second coming, while the second face reminds us of the actual birth of our King and Redeemer Jesus Christ. In all of these faces, we are challenged to a proper preparation of our hearts, homes and the world to receiving Him who loves us so very much.
If we really reflect on the suffering, passion, death and resurrection of Christ, going through the Old and New Testaments together with the history of the Israelites the chosen people of God, we will come to the full knowledge of what hope advent brings to us. Israelites waited patiently for the coming of the Messiah to save them from their perils; in our World of today, we really need the same Messiah to save us from all that threatens our world. This is HOPE.
THE PRACTICES OF ADVENT:
Some very pious people see advent as a penitential season. But Canon 1250 makes it clear that Advent is not a penitential period. Take for instance, when a woman is pregnant, her husband and other family members do not go into fasting rather they are full of hope of an increase in number of the family. This does not rule out individual religiosity and personal relationship and worship of God. Individuals are free to relate to Jesus Christ in the way that is so personal since God reads the mind and heart of those who worship Him in truth and spirit.
SYMBOLS AND SIGNS OF ADVENT
The most physical symbol of Advent is the WREATH. It is circular in shape signifying the eternity and infinite nature of God who has no beginning or end. It is made up of Evergreen branches, showing that God is everlasting; meaning that He lives forever. In it is fixed four or five candles as the case may be. Each of the four candles represents the four Sundays of Advent while the fifth candle represents the new born Child Jesus.
The first candle is purple and it is lit after the wreath is blessed. Once this is done the family or the Religious family gathers around the wreath to say the advent prayers every Sunday evening. Hence, the first week prayer centers on Hope because this is the hope Sunday. The GRACE of this Sunday is “Hope of God’s continuous love for us His people.
The second candle is also purple. This signifies Peace that the awaited Saviour could bring. The second week prayers are also said with two candles lighted. The grace is the serenity and calmness that come from the God of peace.
The third candle is rose or pink. This signifies Rejoice which in Latin is called Gaudate Sunday. Arithmetically this is the middle or half way to the birth of the Messiah. Hence, the Church calls on her children to rejoice for the waiting of her Savior is drawing near. The third week’s prayers are equally said with three candles lighted. The grace is Joy of the Lord which is our strength.
The fourth candle is again purple. This signifies Love. The grace is an everlasting Love. God urges us to love Him and our neighbours unconditionally since His Name is love.
The fifth candle is white and it is called Jesus’ candle or the birthday candle. This is usually placed in the middle signifying “Jesus the centre of our life.”
Conclusively, as launch into this special season, let us make every effort to prepare our hearts, our homes, our environment and our world to receive Christ the Lord. We know there will be lots of gifts and grocery shopping; do not get so busy as to forget to make your hearts pure and tidied for the Jesus. Remember the less privileged around you by putting smiles on their faces.
Let us make our hearts a living stable and manger for Him even though many homes, convents and churches will put up manger for the Baby Jesus. Let us welcome joyfully and lovingly the Prince of Peace so that our World which is suffering from lack of peace will once again experience the true peace that the Lord gives.
May Christ the Lord enrich us, bless, protect, and open our eyes and hearts to see and love like Him as we await His second coming in glory.
I sincerely wish you all good people a fruitful Advent and lovely and merry Christmas in advance.
God bless us in Jesus Name, AMEN.
Prayers and love from
SISTER EUCHARIA C. MGBEADICHIE, HHCJ.