Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent reflections...

I know, this has been a real theme around this blog lately. But I love Advent :) And, as I've mentioned, I love the cycles of the liturgical calendar.

This past Sunday, after Hank processed adorably up for the Children's Liturgy of the Word, I whipped out my new St. Joseph Sunday Missal. I happily followed along for the readings, and during the collection, as I sat in the pew awaiting Hank's return, I thumbed into the back. I found a lovely history of the liturgical year that I thought I'd excerpt briefly; it really demonstrates why I love the liturgical calendar so much (emphasis mine):

"Every Sunday, the Church keeps the memory of our Lord's Paschal Mystery. She sanctifies time, consecrates it to God, and as it were inserts us into the History of Salvation. Within the cycle of a year, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ - from his foreshadowings in the Old Testament to his majestic Life and Work in the New Testament.

Thus, the feasts of the Liturgical Year are first of all celebrations of the History of Salvation. The mysteries of our salvation are to be honored not as something past but as something present, for while the act itself (e.g. Christ's birth, death, resurrection, ascention and the descent of the Holy Spirit) is past, its effects are present. Each feast puts before our mind the sign of some hidden sacred reality, which must be applied to us. We should celebrate the mysteries of our Salvation as happening to us now and we should undergo their mystical effect with an open heart..."

Love that. The whole thing ties so nicely into the Sacraments themselves. Exterior signs of an interior reality. I also took to the selection from Living Faith for the First Sunday of Advent:

"God is With Us - There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay...Be vigilant at all times and pray...Luke 21:25, 36.

Sometimes we Christians tend to think Jesus came to sing us lullabies, that when things are comfortable he's with us and when they get turbulent we've lost him - like the disciples in the stormy boat. Here this idea gets turned upside down. When powers are shaken, the skies rearranged, nations disturbed - then we know 'God is with us.' That's what Emmanuel means, the name Mary and Joseph carried with them into Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary's world was not at all comfortable when God decided to be born into it.

Advent asks us to look forward (to the end times), back (to the Bethlehem journey) and within (to our hearts) and discover in all three one thing: God is with us. Emmanuel. Prayer is our ally. We may feel pulled by Christmas preparations, shopping, baking, gathering, hosting, visiting. But preparation for Christ's nativity requires prayer and vigil. Deep within, in the silence of human pain and hope, his word is uttered.

Lord, teach me to pray and keep vigil, so that your Word is born into the world."

Good stuff. I love the joyful feeling in Advent, and the sense of anticipation. As an adult, this has taken on a much more spirital tone for me, but I still share in the excitement for Christmas morning via Henry, and it's so, so wonderful.

Our Advent wreath is adorning our dining room buffet currently, and Henry keeps grabbing the pink candle and asking me when we can light that one. I love that, because the pink candle was always my favorite too :) I'll write a longer post on the meaning of the pink candle when it's time comes for the Third Sunday of Advent, but my recollection is that the pink color reflects the need to keep vigilant and joyful for the ever imminent arrival of Christmas, less than 2 weeks away.

Today, we can finally open the first window of Hank's chocolate Advent calendar, and he's nearly bursting his pants with excitement. He made a strong pitch for why we should open the window at 8 am this morning, but I wasn't buyin' it. I can't wait to get home to him tonight...

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