“O come, o come Emmanuel,” “Come thou long expected Jesus,” “People look East.” These are some of the hymns we begin to hear throughout this season of Advent. Of course since Halloween our television sets, our shopping malls and our favorite radio stations have tried to drown us with what they believe is “Christmas.” I know for me personally I appreciated my years in Italy where I could have truly celebrated the season of Advent and the commercial aspect of Christmas wasn’t part of the Italian culture. Here in the USA it becomes difficult trying to remain in the season of Advent because it becomes almost a competition between the church and the secular world but we must continue to realize that it’s the season to ponder, to wait and to hope.
Now what does term “Advent” signify, when I looked it up in the dictionary I found two meanings, 1.) a coming into place, view, or being, arrived. 2.) the coming of Christ into the world. That is exactly what this season of Advent is; that is something is “coming into place” that coming into place is the coming of Christ into the world. Now as we go through the season of Advent we will experience those “two comings” of Christ. In the early part of the season of Advent we will be hearing about that second coming of Christ but of course we will always be in this reality; always waiting for the Lord and not knowing when that time will come. Then we will start hearing about how close the birth of Christ will take place and that will have more of a stronger emphasis as we arrive on the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) or as some people call it “Pink Sunday” because of the color of the vestments and the color of the candle that is lit on that particular Sunday. It is a day or rejoicing because we know that the birth of the Lord is near.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem gives a great explanation on the two comings that we encounter during this season of Advent. He says, “we do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom……At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame, in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.” As I read through this statement from St. Cyril it just struck me that our Lord in his first coming came in simplicity as one of us but in his second he will remind us of his glory and his omnipotence.
In the readings this Sunday we have alternate visions of what the end looks like. Isaiah envisions this world will be transformed: God will reign from Zion, people will live in peace, nations will not go to war, people will “walk in the light of the Lord.” Paul envisions the Lord’s coming so near that he admonishes the people to “make no provision[s]” for things of this world that lure us but walk as people who have “put on the armor of light.” Matthew envisions this world being carried away as in the days of Noah. Noah was truly an Advent man! He knew the future that was coming and prepared for it because he listened to God. We, too, know our future: the “Son of Man” will come and establish God’s kingdom of peace as we heard in the first reading. We must prepare by “stay[ing] awake” as Jesus said in the Gospel and “conduct[ing] ourselves properly as we heard in the second reading. Thus can we, too be Advent people. No, we do not know when “the Son of Man” will come again or how God’s kingdom will be established—whether peaceably as it is stated in Isaiah or by destruction as it’s stated in the Gospel. Yes the readings and Advent call us to look forward to the future with hope and expectation. Why? Because Christ’s Second Coming will bring to completion God’s work of salvation. This hope undergrids our efforts in daily life to “conduct ourselves properly” and to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As we hear the words, “Stay Awake!” How can we stay awake? Well, I would recommend many things but what I believe is the most important aspect is the sacrament of reconciliation. In this sacrament is where we can really examine our spiritual lives and ask ourselves, “what do I lack in truly following Christ?”
I especially make the invitation to you my dear brothers and sisters who have been away from the sacrament, to consider the possibility of coming back. Our Lord Jesus Christ waits with open arms for us to come and he is ready to embrace us because he will always remain faithful even when we have become unfaithful. We celebrate this Sacrament every Saturday afternoon but also during this season of Advent there will be an opportunity to celebrate this Sacrament on Tuesday, December 11th at 7 p.m. right here at St. Thomas.
My brothers and sisters as we begin this season of Advent let us slow our lives a little bit and let us take a deep breath and prepare ourselves for that first coming that we will be celebrating in just a few weeks. Let us ponder on our lives and think of those times that we haven’t always been faithful and during this season let us work on our weaknesses and let remember the words from the Responsorial Psalm, “Let us go rejoicing into the house of the Lord.”
Living Liturgy 2008, p. 2