With Mother Nature having transformed herself into the colorful trees and that cold wintry air, the Church's liturgical year turns its page to a new season- the Season of Advent- which begins this Sunday. We traditionally celebrate our New Year on the 1st of January, but our church calendar actually starts its new year in the evening hour of the last Saturday of the 34th week in Ordinary Time. Prior to this, the reading at Masses were pointed towards the "end times." The readings were ominous in character, apocalyptic, and spoke of the end of the world as we know it and the final coming of Jesus as Judge of the living and the dead. Advent also speaks of another coming. It is the season of vigilant waiting. There is a penitential spirit implicit in our celebrating Advent. The penitential color of purple vestment worn by the priest at Mass reminds one of the same color vestment worn during Lent. But when one pays close attention to the readings used at the liturgical celebration, one would notice, aside from the reminders of preparedness, a loving expectation of something beautiful to come or someone wonderful to come. We are encouraged during Advent to lay aside cares and avoid distractions which may come in the way of our interior vigilance and waiting for the Lord. Advent is really a spiritual preparation for the birthday of Jesus. There is a tendency in everyone to be so taken up with the many activities connected with Christmas. There's the shopping to be done, cards to be written and sent, parties to plan, etc. Unfortunately, this has become part and parcel of the days leading up to Christmas. I used to think that it was almost impossible to fully appreciate the season of Advent because of these demands. Even when one is living in the convent like I do, there are demands and responsibilities the Sisters find themselves responding to. But I found that it is possible to take the time to be quiet, to lay aside concerns, and to plan one's activities so as to make room for the spiritual.
There is beauty in Advent and Christmas none of the other liturgical feasts have. Although Easter is theologically larger in significance, Christmas speaks to the heart. It is my favorite season. The idea of God coming to us as a Child, in total dependence, awakens in everyone a sentiment too deep for words. It brings out the best in everyone. We find ourselves more loving, more giving and forgiving, at Christmas.
Let us enter into the Advent Season with determination to be open to whatever the Spirit of God brings and to listen attentively to the prophecies read in Scriptures during Mass. Let us dispose ourselves by an openness and eagerness like Mary as she lovingly waited for the coming of her Lord as a Child.
by Sr. Helena of Mary, O.Carm.