Preparing for a Holy Advent and Christmas Observance
A new Church Year begins on November 28, 2021, with the First Sunday of
Advent. This day ushers in a period of preparation for Christmas, a period that in
some ways is analogous to the penitential preparations made for Easter during
Lent, thus the use of the color violet and the omission of the Gloria in the liturgy.
In order to be prepared to properly observe Advent, and to reap all of the spiritual
benefits available to us from doing so, it is helpful to reflect upon how we might
best enter into this sacred season.
The first thing that we should understand is that Advent is not Christmas. At first
glance, that statement seems self-evident. However, if you pay even scant attention
to what is happening at the stores and shopping malls, to what you see on TV or
hear on the radio, or to what you encounter just about everywhere else, you might
be left with the thought: “What’s Advent? Christmas is now! Party on!” In the
Church, however, such is not the case.
In contrast to the consumeristic, winter holiday festival that passes for Christmas in
secular society – a frenetic observance that starts before the Halloween candy is
finished and is in full force well before the last bite of Thanksgiving turkey is
enjoyed – the Church says: “wait;” “watch;” “reflect;” “prepare.” To help us do
that, the Church gives us Advent.
The word “advent” is from the Latin and means “coming.” As a liturgical season in
the Church Year, this is in reference to the first coming of Christ, his birth at
Bethlehem. However, Advent also speaks to us about the other comings of Christ:
his continuous coming to us in our present lives through the Word and Sacraments,
and his anticipated second coming in power and great glory at the end of the age to
judge the living and the dead. Advent helps us to be watchful and to prepare our
hearts and lives so that we are always ready to receive the Lord whenever he
comes to us.
Here are a few suggestions of things you can do during the approaching weeks to
undertake such preparation. (1) get a good book for spiritual reading during the
season. If you need help in choosing, our Director of Faith Formation, Katie
Orbon, can assist you in doing so; (2) purchase an Advent calendar, and use an
Advent wreath, to gradually mark the passage of the days and weeks leading up to
Christmas. The door on the calendar can be opened, and the candles lit, during
your family devotional time each day; (3) exercise restraint in decorating for
Christmas, adding decorations little by little to build anticipation; (4) go to
Confession, perhaps even weekly during Advent, so that you are able to celebrate
Christmas fully reconciled to the Lord and His Church. A Day of Mercy will also
be offered on Dec. 22 when confessions will be heard continuously from 9:00 a.m.
until 5:30 p.m.; (5) spend some time in prayer and adoration before the Blessed
Sacrament on the First Friday and each of the Wednesdays in Advent; (6) add daily
Mass to your schedule as frequently as possible during the season; (7) focus less on
giving and receiving material things, and more on practicing the Spiritual and
Corporal Works of Mercy for others, perhaps giving spiritual bouquets as
Christmas gifts this year; (8) attend the Advent course offered at 9:00 a.m. in
Guadalupe Hall on each of the Sundays of Advent. This year’s course explores the
important themes, stories and characters of the Old Testament that foreshadow the
Incarnation and Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
If we thus focus our hearts and minds these next few weeks on preparing to receive
and welcome the Lord Jesus, then our Advent will be holy, and our celebration of
Christmas genuine and joyous!
Fr. Richard Ballard