Introduction to Advent
1. The deformed Advent - Refocusing to do
Easter is the central feast of the liturgy, with its preparation, Lent, and its extension, the Easter season. However, soon enough a second cycle, a minor course formed around Epiphanic with a similar preparation, Advent, from the Latin Adventus: the coming, the arrival, connoted glorious, joyous entry.
The centrality of Easter is not obvious to all as the Christmas celebration is more popular, especially in northern areas. It speaks more to the feeling. But we must never forget that the crib is the preparatory stage to the great savior event which is the death of Christ on the cross and His glorious Resurrection.
This first step towards Easter, here it is before us. Before the great ascent, here’s the first climb, Advent.
A second focus is to do, this time for the Christmas cycle itself. Many celebrate this time in the mere memory of an event that, for them, is literally the past. They thus condemn Christmas and its preparation to insignificance. For what have we to wait and then prepare? At most a family celebration, a Christmas for children: a newborn baby on fresh straw, shepherds and sheep, camels and wise men - with, for adults, a tear, remembering their own childhood (again the past!).
Now the birth of Jesus has not only left traces (without it there would be no Christian churches), but wants to act in our today. For the simple reason that the liturgy actualizes Jesus for us, makes Him come into our lives and into our time. So we need to achieve peace, reconciliation of which the liturgy of Advent and Christmas are full of. To postpone them back to the paradise is a pious dishonesty. Jesus transformed immediately; and we after Him, we must transform our time. At least, we should do so with as much sincerity as many men off-Church!
Finally this today is for the near future, the one of our own birth to the Plenary life in God. Tomorrow, in a few years, the earth will be relayed by the joy of a revealed presence. Of course, there are also the preparation for Christmas. But this preparation serves big maneuvers. Liturgical Advent “exercises” us to cross our death and to wait for a grand Advent, the glorious coming of Jesus. And now the liturgy fortunately catches us: For what, for whom do you live? What is your future? And how do you see the future of humanity? In disaster? Or like the entry of all your brothers and sisters in God’s joy? Do you not know that you’re the one holding the torch of expectation instead and place of so many resigned men, do you want to carry it beyond the myths of progress and a better tomorrow? Haven’t these prospects something that exalts you?
Be adult. Live a responsible liturgy.
2. A multi-dimensional time
Advent is a blend of several preparatory times for Christmas:
One more ascetic, a kind of “Christmas Lent”, preparing for baptism which is conferred at the Epiphany (Gallo-Egyptian influence).
The other more historical: the joyful preparation for the feast of the birth of Christ (Roman influence).
A third more eschatological, facing the final coming of Christ in glory (Irish influence).
Advent is rich of these three inputs that are merged into a harmonious whole. The liturgy presents them in a smart pell-mell where a more austere gospel is offset by a song of joy, where the mystical ardor of desire is made realistic by the patient commitment in the everyday tasks. One celebrates truly Advent only with these three aspects continually in mind.
There is however an increase in the themes: the first two Sundays are marked by the glorious coming of Christ; they are in striking continuity with the end of the liturgical year which speaks, too, of the end of time. The last two Sundays were marked by joyous preparation for the celebration of Christmas. This growth is reflected in both official prefaces, the first more eschatological: “He will come again clothed in glory”; the second evoking the prophet John the Baptist and the Virgin and making us “already enter into the mystery of Christmas.”
The four Sundays of Advent are celebrated with purple ornaments (a remnant of an ascetic penance line). Advent is, however, a joyful expectation, and we sing Alleluia. If the Gloria is omitted, it is in order that the song of the angels at Christmas might “sound like something new” (Roman Missal).
But how honestly celebrate the child from the crib without becoming humble and without leading a simple life? How truly await the return of Christ without detaching us from all that separates us from Him? How to live Advent with a minimum of authenticity without making our own the great desire of men, the desire for more justice and peace? Christian, you’re the one who carries the expectation of men to its highest peaks. Do you you realize that? Live so that others begin to desire with you.
So the liturgy is not only a celebration, a rite; Christ will be born in your heart, He will come with power in your life. It will be Christmas, Epiphany for real.
Greek word found a little in Matthew, a lot in Paul. It is best translated by Advent. It points to the solemn arrival of a king in a city, entrance which was accompanied by rejoicings and judgments.
The early Christians adopted this term because it was the image of Christ that talked to them the most, the image of Christ coming in His glory to fill those who have waited on Him in faith. This second coming will be a judgment, God will fulfill His “justice”, He will fully realize His purpose. This will be the day of fulfillment. God had made to dwell bodily in Christ all the fullness of His divinity. Jesus redeemed us abundantly. This full-abundance that is in Christ, it will now be realized in all humanity.
You would wish He came in fullness if you are aware of your “lack”, only if you already have “tasted the Christ” so that you look forward to His coming in all His fullness.