Tag Archives: Advent

Preparing for the Messiah: patiently waiting in Advent

During these blessed Advent days, we, too, are called to imitate the Israelites by cultivating an attitude of strong hope, patiently waiting as they did, for the arrival of the expected Messiah. The reading and prayers in the liturgy, especially the psalms, encourage us to “relive” Israel’s eager waiting for the Savior, and to do this in peace and joyful expectation. From the depths of our being we pray for Emanuel to come be with us and to save us.

Through our Christian faith we know that the Messiah, the Christ, has already come once and that he will come again, a second time, at the end of time. It is not a coincidence that today both pious Jews and fervent Christians are still awaiting his coming. Indeed we both have much in common. We are both waiting for the same Person!

When he comes, his coming shall be a first time for the Jewish people and second time for the Christians. However, for both Jews and Christians, in fact for all people, this shall be his last and final coming. Thus is our Advent hope and why we find great consolation in our common waiting. Veni, Emmanuel!” Come, Emmanuel!

Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette, OSB
A Monastery Journey to Christmas

4th Sunday of Advent

visitationThe Psalm for today’s Mass has us singing: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (80). See in this verse what is happening between Mary and Elizabeth. Think of the baby Jesus leaping for joy in the womb of Mary at meeting of his cousin John. Have you been able to help others to experience, i.e., to see and to hear the Good News of Jesus coming into history this week? Have we made a place for Christ in hearts today?

A prominent Cistercian Father guides our reflection –Blessed Guerric of Iggy taught:

“’Be ready to go out to meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming…’ Do, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me. If you find any sinful way in me at all, take it from me. Grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the ways of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: and undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.”

Advent 2015

Nativity detail GDavid“How is it we are saved by you, O Lord, from whom salvation comes and whose blessing is upon your people, if it is not in receiving from you the gift of loving you and being loved by you? That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son of your right hand, the Man whom you made strong for your own self, should be called Jesus, that is, Savior, for he will save his people from their sins. There is no other in whom is salvation except him who taught us to love himself when he first loved us, even to death on the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear he stirred us up to love himself, who first had loved us to the end.”

―William of Saint-Thierry

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Mary of the AnnunciationFinally we arrive at the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The final Sunday is dedicated to the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin. The opening prayer at Mass is the prayer used for Angelus. The Church, pointing to Mary points to the Savior.

St. Peter Chrysologus has something to say:

“’Who was born from the Holy Spirit.’ Precisely thus is Christ born for you, in such a way that he may change your own manner of birth… Formerly, death awaited you as the setting sun of your life; he wants you to have a new birth of life. ‘Who was born from the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.’ With the Spirit begetting, and a virgin giving birth, everything carried on is divine; nothing of it is merely human.”

Indeed, nothing is merely human…

Advent is penitential

For most of the time since Vatican II liturgists have spent a lot of energy trying to promote the idea that Advent is not a penitential liturgical season. A recent heated inter-change with an aging religious sister who was formed in the sacred Liturgy in the 1980s demonstrated to me that the obvious was missing from “Sister’s” understanding of the nature of Liturgy and her seasons. The downplay of the penitential character of Advent is, in fact, not merely misleading as I would say rather wrong especially if you look at the totality of the liturgical season. Of course, the nature of penitence during Advent is different from Lent; and no one of right mind would claim that Advent and Lent have the same degree of penitence. The Scriptures and prayers chosen for Advent’s Masses and the Divine Office all point to the removal of sin and repentance and conversion; plus, the choice of saints honored in Advent also point in the direction of Advent’s penitential character.

The source of the wrong thinking is likely the fact that some professional Catholics who had a hand in framing a “new” liturgical sensibility in the Catholic Church –as if we really needed a new view– really didn’t like the notion/reality of sin, penance, repentance, etc. The fear-based aspect of religion prevalent in former years was likely disproportionate to a human and religious reality (think of the Irish emphasis on sin); no doubt you can’t dismiss the fact that sin breaks a relationship with God and if not taken care of with the sacrament, it leads to a radical separation that could prevent one from entering into beatitude.

A mature Catholic spiritual life has the emphasis on being healthy, reasonable, human and merciful. A mature spirituality is one that takes responsibility and realizes that humility goes a long way to wholeness and holiness. Pope Francis emphasizes this fact. The capacity to admit we are wrong, that we are imperfect, that we truly desire holiness is the point of true penitence. A Christian life is only possible with a purity of heart. The right-ordered penitential life is only accomplished in conversation with a prudent spiritual director so that one is able to strive for greater coherence and integrity, purity of heart, and single-mindedness.

The Advent hymn “People Look East”has real currency here: “Make your house fair as you are able, / trim the hearth and set the table. / People look East and sing today: / Love the Guest is on the Way.” Indeed, let’s get ready to receive the Divine Guest. Have we made way for the newborn Prince of Peace? How crowded are our hearts and minds for Jesus?

I tried to receive the sacrament of reconciliation today while I was NYC today with a friend. But I was frustrated because the priest left the confessional early. I was little annoyed –well, it was more than a “little annoyed”– because I blurted out: “I guess Father is unaccustomed to working that he couldn’t wait to the end of the scheduled time.” Advent is a great time for priests to spend more time, not less, in the confessional. Being set free from sin to worthily receive the Eucharistic Lord at Christmas is beautiful and necessary thing.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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