Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The word Advent comes from the Latin words, advenire (to come to) & adventus (an arrival), and refers to Christ's coming into this world. The Advent season is a time of joyful expectation and preparation for Christmas, the day upon which Christ's birth is celebrated and His first coming into this world. The focus of Advent is upon the centuries of waiting and preparation by God's chosen people, which preceded the coming of the Messiah. As such, it is a time marked by expectation, hope, preparedness and penance. The latter being mindful of John the Baptist's cry to prepare for the coming of the Lord with repentance (Treasury of Latin Prayers by Michael Martin).
You may have seen the gift-bearing Santa Claus kneeling in prayerful adoration before the Baby Jesus. This representation of Santa Claus, the beloved "Saint Nick" of our childhood, as actually worshiping Christ, is also a surprisingly novel and rather touching attempt to "re-Christianize" what has become an essentially secular "saint." There is no lack of truly Christian symbols, however. Many traditions connected with observances of Christmas have their origins in Christian, not pagan, culture, despite what we often read.
Our heritage of holiday traditions learned from our families, which we faithfully continue to practice in our homes for our own children, helps to link both the past and the future. We can make this vital connection even stronger when such practices are informed by enthusiastic faith which most of us also received, by the Grace of God, through our families. While there are a variety of Advent and Christmas customs from many cultural traditions, I wanted to share a few of the popular expressions of faith over the next few weeks of Advent for you to share with your family.
The custom of using Advent wreaths in homes has increased during the past couple of decades, although they have been used in churches in Europe for many generations. The wreath's symbolism of the Advent of Light into the world by Our Lord's birth is clear. The gradual lighting of the wreath, one candle each week of Advent, combined with the liturgical colors of the candles (purple is the penitential color used during Advent and Lent; rose is used only on Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent) help to symbolize not only our expectation and joyful hope in Our Lord's first Advent, but also in his Second Coming. During this season we prepare our hearts and our homes to celebrate His birth into our world, of course, but especially to receive Him in preparation for our redemption.
To be continued…
O Mary, Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope, revive the spirit of Advent in your entire Church, so that all humani- ty may start out anew on the journey towards Bethlehem, from which it came, and that the Sun that dawns upon us from on high will come once again to visit us, Christ our God. Amen.
Father Don Kline, V.F.