We Have A Story
We are a people of a story. It is a story of creation, fall, formation of a people, promise, redemption, and expectation of the Second Coming of Christ. Like the Israelites, we live to tell our story. We live looking backward, wondering, asking what happened. How come Adam and Eve sinned against God? We live in the now, celebrating the good memories: the fulfilment of God’s promise and the events of our redemption. And we live looking forward to when the Lord will come again and the world as we know it will be transformed and God’s Kingdom will be fully realised.
We are also the ‘in-between’ people, living in the ‘in-between’ time of the birth of Christ and the Second Coming of Christ. This time, the present age, is marked by many events, just as the time between the fall of Adam and Eve and the first coming of Christ. We live in time, and our days are graced. Each day is a Kairos, the appointed time to remember and celebrate the Lord’s saving work in history. Thus, ‘Each and every day is sanctified by the liturgical celebrations of the People of God, especially by the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Divine Office.
’ Liturgical celebrations not only sanctify our day, but they also tell a story of the day and for the day. In other words, they tell a story that helps us to discover the purpose of the day and interpret our experiences of the day. All this is done within a cycle of three years – Year A, B and C for Sundays, and a cycle of two years for weekdays – Year 1 and 2. According to Sacrosanctum Concilium within the cycle of a year, the Church through her Liturgy unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, beginning with Advent, through the celebrations of the Paschal Mysteries and ending with Christ the King.
What is Advent?
M. Knowles, editor of McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry, argues that Advent has a Roman background. In the Roman world, the Latin word Adventus from where the English ‘Advent’ is derived was used to describe the return of the Roman Emperor to the city of Rome. It meant the arrival of a Roman Emperor, particularly following a military victory. The Roman Emperor was also known as an “Adventus”, the one who is coming. His coming meant his subjects could celebrate—usually at the city gate—the favour of the gods in granting him victory over his enemies, and “salvation” to the general populace.
Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 Homily on First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent gave a deeper meaning to Adventus. In a way he gave it a Christian meaning. For him, Adventus can be rendered with “presence”, “arrival” or “coming” . Presence indicating that God is here. He has come. He is with us. Arrival arouses a sense of urgency. Look! The Lord is near. His arrival is soon, very soon. Get ready. Come out and meet Him. Coming suggests a longer kind of waiting. It calls for hope, a period of joyful expectation, but with the assurance He will come. Furthermore, ‘In the language of the ancient world (Advent) was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of an official or the visit of the king or emperor to a province.
However, it could also mean the coming of the divinity that emerges from concealment to manifest himself forcefully or that was celebrated as being present in worship. … Jesus is the King who entered this poor “province” called “earth” to pay everyone a visit; he makes all those who believe in him participate in his Coming, all who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly.’
The essential meaning of Advent
Benedict XVI argues is that God is here. God is present. He did not create the world, the whole of creation and withdraw from it, nor did He desert us as some thinkers would want us to believe. He is and will always remain God-with-us. Advent tells this story, and Advent invites us to tell the story of God’s presence even if we cannot see and touch Him as we can tangible realities. Advent exhorts us to proclaim that God comes to visit us in many ways. He comes in His Word proclaimed at Mass, in the Eucharist, in the people, events of life etc.
Development of the Advent Season
Considering the fact there are no authoritative records ascertaining the origin of Advent as we a season Let us talk things, Catholic – Advent of the Church, we can speak of the development of the Advent Season rather than its origin.There are traces here and there of celebrations in the writings and homilies of the Church Fathers that might fit our understanding of Advent. But those references still leave much to be desired. As early as the 4th century some records show that the Latin Church, which is the Roman Catholic Church had been observing a kind of preparation for the birth of Christ. Some sources claim the oldest document in which we can find the length and exercises of Advent mentioned with some clarity, is a passage in the second book of the History of the Franks by Saint Gregory of Tours, where he says that Saint Perpetuus, one of his predecessors, who held that See about the year 480, had decreed a fast three times a week, from the feast of Saint Martin until Christmas.
Even with this, it is a near impossibility to say whether St. Perpetuus, by his regulations, established a new custom, or merely enforced an already existing law. This, and similar discrepancies raise more questions than answers about the development of the Advent Season. However, there are allusions to the fact that the reduction of the Season of Advent from a 40-day period to four weeks is found in the ninth century, in a letter of Pope St. Nicholas I to the Bulgarians. From another source, Pope Saint Gregory is mentioned as the first to compile the Office for the Season of Advent. Probably the Season of Advent as we have it today, with Four Sundays instead of Four Weeks, might have been a development of the 20th century.
The Advent Season
Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the solemnity of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.’ This understanding shifts the emphasis of Advent from a penitential season as it was commonly perceived in its earlier development to a season of joyful expectation and delight. It is a season that begins with First Vespers (Evening Prayer 1) of the Sunday that falls on or closest to 30th of November. It ends before First Vespers of Christmas. The Season is basically divided into two parts, with each part having its own focus. The first part begins with First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent and ends on the 16th of December. The focus of the first part is the Second Coming of Christ. It draws our attention to the return of the Lord. The readings and the liturgical tone are of hope, repentance, and joy as we await the Lord’s Coming. The second part which begins on the 17th of December and lasts up to and including the 24th of December focuses more directly on our preparation for the Lord’s Nativity. It is the time of remembering. The readings and the prayers at the Mass as well as the Divine Office begin to tell Israel’s story as she had waited for the First Coming of the Lord. It is the time we remember the Archangel’s visit to the Virgin Mary, Mary’s response, and the role of Joseph in our salvation drama. It is the best time to display our Christmas decorations, and sing/play carols.
Advent Symbols and Meaning
During Advent Season, there are two main liturgical colours that are used – violet (purple where violet is not available) and rose (pink where rose is not available). Violet depicts the gloomy nature of repentance and preparation. When violet is used in Advent, Gretchen Filz describes it as a colour that speaks of ‘a spiritual waiting in our “darkness” with hopeful expectation for our promised redemption, just as the whole world did before Christ’s birth, and just as the whole world does now as we eagerly await his promised return.’ Rose is the colour that symbolises the joy that hope brings. The Advent wreath is another symbol. History has it that the wreath goes back to a Lutheran minister who was working at a mission for children in 1939. His first Advent wreath was made from the wheel of a cart. It had more candles than the five we now have. Catholics modified his wreath to capture the rich meaning of Advent. The circular shape of the wreath symbolises the eternity of God. God has no beginning nor end. Fr. Francis Afu The essential meaning of Advent Benedict XVI argues is that God is here. God is present. He did not create the world, the whole of creation and withdraw from it, nor did He desert us as some thinkers would want us to believe. He is and will always remain God-with-us.
Continues NEXT WEEK