Advent is a very special season which marks the beginning of a new Liturgical season of the Church’s calendar. Similarly, it heralds the beginning of a four-week period of preparation in anticipation of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at Christmas. This is part of the story of advent that some people may know, but there is more to it my dear friends. The word “Advent” which is from the Latin word adventus means “coming” or “visit.” This term has two meanings which have direct bearing and places emphasis in the celebration of Christ coming into the world as a man and also the second coming of the Lord. It is a season which proclaims hope, Love, joy, and Peace.
We will observe in our parishes, the Liturgical colour used is purple except on third Sundays, some use the colour pink or rose. Advent has a solemn atmosphere which is in turn connected with the name “Little Lent”. For us Catholics, the preparation for the coming of our Lord evokes the need to evaluate our lives and seek renewal, making ourselves fit for the return of our master. For some other Christian groups, this sombre character is missing from their picture of advent. Rather, it is a time to celebrate the Lord who comes to his own.
The Church however sees in advent, an opportunity to seek revival for our souls. In the light of this, Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to meditate on the meaning of Christmas. Put together, Advent- “Coming” can mean the following to us: Remembering and commemorating what happened 2000 years ago, the birth of Jesus Christ who became man and lived among us as one of us, and also sacrificed his life to redeem and reconcile us back to the Father. The second is that it’s a period to welcome him here in our hearts in the Sacraments, Scripture, and our faith encounter in various life experience and live with us. The third is the eschatological coming, which will happen when Jesus comes again, not as a baby but as King and Judge.
During the four weeks of Advent, the‘Advent Wreath’ made with green leaves in form of a crown with four candles round the outside and one in the middle is placed in a conspicuous place, especially in front of the altar. It symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent season towards Christmas. The circle of the wreath represents the endlessness of time in which God remains united with humanity. One candle is lighted on the first Sunday, two on the second and so on. The purple candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and good works done during this period.
The rose candle is lit on Gaudate Sunday- (the third week), which is referred to as “Rejoice” Sunday because the readings invite us to “rejoice” for our Saviour comes. Some local traditions have also adapted a fifth candle, the white candle, which is lighted on Christmas Eve; this signifies Christ, the light of the world. Advent is very significant to us as Christians. It serves to remind us of the essence of Christ’s coming-which is to dispel the darkness of sin, and to redeem us. It is a time to help us love each other as we should. It is a time to become more active, and reflect deeper in the meaning of our calling as Christians.
This implies that we are not just preparing for the commemoration of the birth of Christ, but also for that Second coming by being awake and watchful “Therefore, stay awake…” (Mt. 24:42) and experience the joy of eternal life, the promise of God for all His chosen children. This year’s advent is unique, within a pandemic. Surely, many have gone and many more die daily all over the world. Naturally, we should find in this season, a good time to reflect on the purpose of life, the four last things – death, judgment, heaven or hell. I pray we make good use of this sacred time wisely and may we reap abundant fruit from it. May Christ our good shepherd finds us ready whenever He comes. Until then, let us keep preparing. Happy celebrations!
• Rev. Sr. Mary Judith Madueke, EHJ, Director, Religious Education Department