CELEBRATING ADVENT: The Joyful Mystery of Waiting (2)
REPARATION FOR ADVENT:
The sacred text of the Book of Apocalypse “… behold I will make all things new” (Rev 21:5), serves as a thriving ground for this season of waiting, which the entire church mark as a new dawn for Christian pilgrimage. This is to be renewed with grace and the spirit. Here Matthew reporting these words and describing the ministry of the desert preacher – John the Baptist,(cf. Mtt 3:3) which is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophetic utterance, a voice cries, “Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley …” (Is 40:3-4)
This similar clarion call for conversion could be found in the Pauline epistle to the Romans which part of it forms the second reading of First Sunday of Advent year “A.” Which St. Paul awakens in us an urgency in our moral efforts. He reminds us that we have already witnessed the new era, and our life here on earth should be in constant waiting for the great parousia. This admonition, invoke in us the need to live as ‘children of light’ and bear witness to this truth which is embedded in Christ Jesus, our Redeemer. (cf. Rom 13:11-24). Advent season is not in strict sense penitential as Lenten Season, instead it is a season of joyful hope. This does not imply that we should play down the penitential elements that follow it.
THE LITURGICAL ENVIRONMENT FOR ADVENT:
At the beginning of this season, that is after the feast of Christ the King. The liturgical environment takes a new shape with violet or purple as central colour. This same colour could be used for the altar decoration, the lectern, as well as liturgical vestments for priests and other minor ministers. During this season, the chanting or reciting of Gloria is omitted, the playing of the musical instruments and decoration of the altar with flowers should be done with moderation as Ceremonial of Bishops no. 236 stated. Also Order of Matrimony no. 32 states that, “the same moderation accorded the former should be observed in the celebration of Holy Matrimony.”In the Advent liturgical history, Pope Pius V’s lectionary missal had nineteen readings for Advent. In the lectionary promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, there are no fewer than seventy-five pericopes for the pre-Christmas season. If one takes into account the three-year cycle of readings, it means that we now have twelve liturgical celebrations for the four Sundays of Advent. These celebrations have an organic unity and are complementary to one another. From Sunday to Sunday there is a progression of thought and theme: the first two Sundays announce the coming of the Lord in judgment, the third expresses the joy of a coming already very near, the fourth and last ‘appears as a Sunday of the fathers of the Old Testament and the Blessed Virgin Mary, in anticipation of the birth of Christ’. (Excerpt from the Commentary on the Roman Calendar, Section 2, ‘The Advent Season’). As for the weekday readings, they are adapted to the theology expressed in the Sunday celebration which preceded them.
The season of Advent ushers in a lot of varieties to spice up our spirituality. Michaelann Martin’s, Catholic Traditions for Advent and Christmas brings to limelight these features in a spectacular ways. For Michaelann, the season traditionally is decorated with a wreath which has German origin. It is probably the most recognized Advent custom. It is a wreath made of evergreens that is bound to a circle of wire. It symbolizes the many years from Adam to Christ in which the world awaited its Redeemer; it also represents the years that we have awaited His second and final coming. The wreath holds four equally spaced candles, the three purple ones lit on the penitential Sundays and a pink one for Gaudete, the joyful third Sunday in Advent. Other significant symbols of this season are: the Jesse tree which tells about Christ’s ancestry through symbols and relates Scripture to salvation history, progressing from creation to the birth of Christ, the Christ candle is yet another features for this great season, etc. (cf. Martin, M., Catholic Traditions for Advent and Christmas, Lay Witness, December 1998).
Advent season symbolizes the presence of the Church in these “last days” (cf. Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2), as God’s people wait with joyful hope for the return of the Messiah in glory to consummate His eternal glory. This great waiting is similar to the Israelites of the old in exile waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation of the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s abundant grace on them by leading them out of the land of captivity, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, we the pilgrim church in the course of this season look up to Christ’s glorious return.
Finally, the season of Advent ends with Christmas Eve. As we journey with the church within this season of prayer, reflection on the mystery of Christ’s nativity and His glorious return; let us be mindful of the fact that this is a new dawn of our spirituality. It is a moment of renewal, of growing in intimacy with Jesus and in an ever deeper understanding of Him in our lives. To crown it all, we are awaiting the word made flesh, who pitches His tent among us, and His glory covers us (cf. Jn 1:14). Also, let us not forget in haste the words of Pope Benedict XVI who avers “Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the whole world.” As we are awaiting the arrival of our Redeemer, let us pray to God that, His only begotten son may find a befitting abiding place in our hearts so that we may radiate this joyful mystery of waiting, with hope, peace and love wherever man is found.
PIUS RALPH EFFIONG, SMMM