Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The year of grace 2019 begins this weekend with the celebration of the first Sunday of Advent. As you know, the Advent season is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. Additionally, it is a season in which we look forward to His second coming in glory at the end of time. Throughout these four weeks, we are invited to prepare our hearts, minds, and homes to welcome Christ our Savior.
The violet vestment is used throughout this holy season to remind us of our need to spiritually prepare. We typically associate violet in the liturgy with penance—during the sacrament of confession, the priest wears a violet stole; during Lent, a season of penance, violet is worn throughout. In the context of the Advent season, the violet vestment does indeed call us to penance, though not in the same way as it does in Lent. Advent prepares us for our Lord’s arrival on the human scene. Thus, the penance we take on in this time is less of a rigorous spiritual discipline and more focused on preparing for a joyful celebration. Think, for example, of the joyful expectation of a family awaiting the birth of a child. Though pregnancy is difficult and involves the “penance” of certain discomforts, etc., parents look ahead with joy to welcoming new life. Their penance, then, is touched by joyful expectation and hope. Our penance and preparation throughout this season should be touched by similar joy.
We Catholics are among what seems to be a minority. For many, the Christmas season began when Santa Claus passed by Macy’s in the parade on Thanksgiving. The Christmas season ends sometime early on December 27. To a Catholic, this is backwards. The Church recognizes our need to get ready and our need to sustain joy. These weeks are set aside to help us prepare and to recognize in Christmas something greater than an opportunity to give gifts and eat. The famous “spirit” of Christmas ought not, for a Catholic, be confined to being joyful and with others (though this is, of course, very good!). Rather, for Catholics, the spirit of Christmas is none other than the joy of the shepherds and Magi who found the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The shepherds were taken by surprise, the Magi had time to prepare as they journeyed. We can easily be taken by surprise if we skip Advent. So let us go with the Magi, preparing our hearts for the journey at hand, and let the anticipation of the birth of our Savior build in our hearts.
To help us on this journey, we are privileged to offer two evenings of prayer and inspiration in our Advent Parish Mission, led by Fr. Luke Joseph Leighton, CFR. You may remember Fr. Luke, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, who joined us a few years ago for our Lenten mission. On Monday and Tuesday of this week beginning at 7 PM, he will offer inspiring talks and prayer, with music by Michael Corsini. Each evening will include Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Tuesday evening, priests will be available for the sacrament of confession. Please join Fr. Luke and use these nights to enter deeply into the beauty of the Advent season!