THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
”The season of Advent is like springtime in nature, when everything is renewed and so is fresh and healthy. Advent is also meant to do this to us - to refresh us and make us healthy, to be able to receive Christ in whatever form he may come to us.”
Today, the church begins a new liturgical season (year A). Advent is derived from a Latin phrase, "AD VENIRE", meaning ”to come.” It is a period for spiritual preparation in our hearts and minds to meet the Lord’s coming.
We meditate on Jesus’s coming in three ways:
The liturgical and theological import of Advent is portrayed by the call to PRAYER, PENANCE and SACRIFICE; which is characterized by the color purple (violet).
The significance and impact of this season are captured in the symbolism of the advent wreath that reminds us about immortality and the promise of God’s everlasting life through Christ. This should encourage us to contemplate the essence of the coming of Christ. Every element of the wreath throws light on our faith and our hope in the promise of eternal life to come.
The first candle (1st week) stands for HOPE. It is also called ”THE PROPHECY CANDLE,” which highlights the expectations felt in the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah as foretold by the prophet Isaiah about the birth of Christ.
The second candle (2nd week) signifies FAITH. Also known as ”BETHLEHEM CANDLE”: the exemplary fidelity of Mary and Joseph who journeyed to Bethlehem to make the prophecy come through.
The third candle (pink, 3rd week) elicits JOY; identified as ”SHEPHERD CANDLE.” Because we are at the midpoint of the season, the Church describes it as ”GAUDATE SUNDAY.” Persevering hope and resilient faith will lead us to discover our joy like the Shepherds.
The fourth candle (4th Sunday) emphasizes PEACE; called ”ANGELS CANDLE.” This reminds us of the message of the angels, ”Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men.” Indeed, this is what Christ represents, The Prince of Peace.
In modern times, there is an introduction of a fifth candle (white in color) which stands for LIFE (PURITY). They call it ”CHRIST CANDLE”; placed in the middle of the four and lit on Christmas Eve to teach about the sinless Christ, pure Savior who gives eternal life.
The evergreen wreath reminds us of continuous life. The circle of the wreath means ”no beginning or end”, implying the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life we find in Christ Jesus. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering (triumph over sin). The pine, holly and yew stand for immortality. The cedar portrays strength and healing. The pine cones speak to us about life and resurrection.
That is why, my dear family of God, in our first reading the prophet Isaiah talks about all nations making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to affirm their faith in one true God. Advent is a season of refreshment and renewal. As we are hoping against hope in anticipation for the birth of Christ we have to take ”spiritual pilgrimage” in prayer, penance and sacrifice to refresh and renew our commitment, loyalty and fidelity to the Prince of Peace.
So in our attempt to embark on this journey, the Apostle Paul in our second reading teaches us how we can practically achieve our goal. He admonishes us that we should discharge our duties properly by freeing ourselves from our former and ordinary way of life. We must eschew the tendencies toward vices and impure acts. Rather we should be models of virtues.
Finally, Jesus Christ in our gospel readings insists on the urgency of vigilant preparation on our part to meet him. Meaning, Advent is a golden opportunity to put ourselves in order to celebrate the joy of Christmas.
This demands serious intrapersonal introspection and working on your interpersonal relationships. Reach out for the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). Intensify your spiritual communication with God (prayer) and be ready to let go of your personal comforts for the sake of another person (sacrifice).
May the coming of Christ be a dream come true in your life.
Enjoy the beauty of the snow... but be careful when walking or driving! You are in my prayers. Love you.
Fr. Emmanuel hails from Ghana and is passionate about the Gospel and bringing the love of Christ to all people. He speaks several languages, enjoys soccer and cooking, and loves St. Francis of Assisi.