Sunday, December 2, 2007

1st Sunday of Advent (A)

Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
Today marks the beginning of a new Liturgical Calendar Year in the Catholic Church. It opens with the Season of Advent, consisting of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.”

The Advent Season has a two-fold character. First, it is a time to prepare ourselves for Christmas when Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is remembered. Second, it also is a time to anticipate Christ second coming as King and Judge at the end of time.

The liturgical color for the Season of Advent is purple, which was the color used by kings in olden times to signify their royal status. Today, purple implies the lordship of Christ; it also signifies repentance and patience of God’s people as they await the coming of their savior. Some Churches use royal blue, a color of hope and expectation, to distinguish Advent from Lent, which is another penitential season of the Liturgical Calendar.

A most popular symbol used by Christians during the Season of Advent is the Advent Wreath. It is a circle of evergreen branches with four candles placed around it. The evergreen circle stands for the eternal life that Christ won for us. The lighted candles signify the near coming of Christ, the light of the world. Of the four candles, three are colored purple (a color of expectation) and one is pink (a color of rejoicing). On the first Sunday of Advent, a purple candle is lit, with another one lit on each succeeding Sunday. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, otherwise known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, the Latin word for “rejoice”, is the first word of the traditional introit for that Sunday (“Rejoice for the Lord is near!”).

Advent reminds us to always have the coming of Christ in mind. We need to spend our daily lives in preparation for our meeting with the Lord, no matter when that encounter comes. The gospel warns us to stay awake because the Lord will come to our lives anytime of the day. Like good servants, we have to fulfill our daily tasks of loving and serving, so that when the owner of the house arrives, we can honestly tell him, “Master, we always tried to do our best.”

John Henry Newman had explained what it means to watch for Christ:

They watch for Christ
who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind,
who are awake, alive, quick-sighted,
zealous in honoring him,
who look for him in all that happens, and
who would not be surprised,
who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed,
if they found that he was coming at once.

This then is to watch:
to be detached from what is present, and
to live in what is unseen;
to live in the thought of Christ as he came once,
and as he will come again;
to desire his second coming, from our affectionate
and grateful remembrance of his first.