For us Catholics, the new Liturgical or Church Year commences this Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent. This is a time of anticipation and prayer for the coming of Christ. The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ born on Christmas Day who is the Light of the world. This time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to make Christ more fully alive in our own lives.
As Blessed John Henry Newman reminded us in a homily for the Advent Season:
“Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the necessity, the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait’. To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned by the apostle to the Gentiles, in today's reading to the Romans: ‘Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rm 13:11).
And so we begin the Season of Advent singing the traditional hymn of the season, O Come, O Come Emmanuel! We cry out for Christ to come into our cold and often cruel world and into our homes and hearts grown weary from toil, fear, grief, sickness, poverty or indifference.
During this First Week of Advent we anticipate some great feasts of our faith. The Feasts of St. Francis Xavier, St. Nicholas and St. Ambrose are this week. Great saints for us to pray with during this Advent Season.
On Monday we honor St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit Missionary of the 16th Century who preached the Good News in the Far East. He brought Christ to places and people in India and Japan who did not know of Him. His Feast reminds us of our baptismal call “to go and preach to all nations.”
On this Thursday we mark the Feast of St. Nicholas with a special OLM School Mass at 9:00AM. All parishioners are most welcome to join us as we expect a visit from St. Nick himself! He is a great saint of joy and charity. His love of the poor and disadvantaged reminds us of our own commitment to love and serve to the neediest among us.
On Friday we celebrate the great Doctor of the Church, St. Ambrose. He is a particular favorite of mine having served nine years as Pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Albion. This great saint and churchman was the spiritual guide to St. Monica who also helped to convert St. Augustine. His example of leading the Church and teaching the faith reminds us of our call to teach the faith to those who do not fully know and love Christ and His Church.
Of course, this First Week of Advent ends with the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8th. It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics and there are three Masses. We turn to the Immaculate Mother of our God and ask her to intercede for our nation. May she lay her mantle of peace and love upon us and bring us ever closer to Christ her son and our Savior.
Advent has begun and we need to be mindful of this important season. Our faith calls us to prayerfully celebrate Christ’s coming with joyful expectation and fruitful vigilance. As the world around us goes mad with the hustle and bustle of the secular season, let’s make some time for God this season with prayer, Mass and Confession. Let’s celebrate the saints and ask for their help in renewing our friendship with Christ. Let’s slow down and reflect on the season of hope. Let’s remain vigilant for Christ’s coming into our lives and in our world. Let’s practice more patience, pray even more and be more generous and charitable toward others most especially the poor and needy.
In a homily on Advent, Pope Emeritus Benedict XV reminds us: “Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.”
Happy Advent! Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats!!!