From the Pastor's Desk
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight His paths!"
Advent is a time of preparation to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Not as an infant; he has already done that! But a new coming of Christ into our own lives, in our own worship, and in our own hearts.
Advent literally means “to come.” It is formed from two Latin words “ad” which means “to” and “venire” in the infinitive (the way verbs are typically listed in a Latin dictionary) but more obvious as a participle, “vento,” “come.” Thus “ad vento” translates as “to come.” So Advent is a time of preparation for something to come. The hope of the Church is that that coming is a new and deeper intimacy with Christ. That Christ is “born” anew in each of our hearts. It is a time of great expectation and hope.
The Advent Wreath originated with the Lutherans of eastern Germany a few hundred years ago. The custom of lighting the wreath during the four weeks preceding Christmas took place only in the homes of believers. Gradually, especially in Roman Catholic parishes, this custom made its way into the church. Chapter 47 of the Book of Blessings tells us that the wreath “should be of a sufficient size to be well visible to all the congregation. It is preferable that it be suspended from the ceiling, though it may be placed on a stand. If it is placed in the presbyterium (sanctuary), it should not interfere with the celebration of the liturgy, nor should it obscure the altar, lectern or chair.” The wreath is blessed only on the First Sunday of Advent, and is simply lighted on the remaining Sundays.
That little passage from the Book of Blessings (BB), emphasizes two things: the importance of the Advent Wreath as a powerful symbol of life in the midst of winter and the passage of time, and, secondly, the preeminence of the sacred rites of the Celebration of the Eucharist, especially the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The BB instructs pastors to encourage parishioners to construct Advent Wreaths for their homes. These can be as simple as a single branch off an evergreen tree with four candles (the green suggests life and the candles light and passage of time) of even green package bows and candles. It could be as simple as four candles placed in the middle of the dining room table. Such artistic Advent Wreaths would serve to remind us of the season and the need for prayer and watchfulness. Of course, they should be lit each day with a few moments of prayer, perhaps at the evening meal or any convenient time.
Just as last Sunday, the Gospel is a frightening one, and the final line can be downright terrifying: (Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” That verse highlights two themes of Advent: watchfulness (vigilance) and prayer.
Matthew tells us how to evaluate our worthiness standing before the Son of Man: have I given food to the hungry, or provided shelter to those in need, or cared for them when they are sick, or visited them in prison? Advent suggests that we don’t know the day nor the hour, thus we must be prepared to face that judgement at all times. Rather, than take that as a warning, let us take it as an invitation.
The Church seems to want to prepare us for the scary words of the Gospel with comforting words from St. Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. The One who judges is also the one who comes to our aid. Oneness with Him in prayer is a key component of Advent. Paul prays that the Church in Thessalonika (and ourselves, of course) be made blameless for the day of judgment, conscious that the judge himself will strengthen us for that glorious/terrible day. One author says “it’s like being given the answers to our final exam.” We must “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”
How do we do this, prepare for the Lord’s coming — at Christmas, at the Last Judgement, at any moment. Perhaps the key is living and acting as if the Lord is already here and in our midst. FOR SO HE IS!
May this Advent truly open you to the coming of the Lord.
“Dear Padre” page courtesy of:
Mahn Funeral Home
Peaceful Ridge Cemetery
Mausoleum - Monuments - Cremation
900 Main & Mahn Ave - De Soto, MO 63020 - 636-586-2288/515 Collins Ave.-Festus, MO 63028 - 636-937-4444