Advent – A season of joyful expectation

THE LITURGICAL SEASON OF ADVENT Today we begin the beautiful four Sunday liturgical season of Advent. This lovely season has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement: The Four Last Things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – have been traditional themes for Advent meditation. The characteristic note of Advent is therefore expectation, rather than penitence. The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22). Church decorations are simple and spare, and purple is the liturgical colour. In the northern hemisphere, the Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas. he Moravian custom of the ‘Christingle’ has similarly enjoyed great success in Britain since the latter part of the twentieth century in most Christian communities and is widespread within the Catholic Church; The Third Sunday of Advent was observed in medieval times as a splash of colour in the restrained atmosphere of Advent (Gaudete/ Rejoice or ‘Rose Sunday’) We rejoice since our redemption is near at hand. Let us immerse ourselves in this wonderful season, mindful that although we are living through dark times, we still look to Christ our rising sun, our morning star (O Oriens) O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.