Season of Advent. Today we begin the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas. Advent is usually about 4 weeks long, but this year, since Christmas falls on the day after the 4th Sunday of Advent, there is really no “4th week of Advent.” So that this year’s Advent will be the shortest possible—3 weeks and 1 day.
In any case, every year most people forget that the Advent season is primarily about preparing for Christmas, and instead spend these weeks pre-maturely celebrating Christmas, and doing so from a largely secularized perspective. And then when the actual 3 week Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day, they put all the Christmas things away and go on with life!
This pre-mature celebration isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. Many Catholics see people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.
But it’s not completely harmless. First of all, much of this early celebration is driven not by a Christian culture, but by commercial interests taking advantage of that culture. Sadly, much of this is nothing more than retailers playing on our emotional attachment to Christmas, in order to increase sales. Increasing sales is not a bad thing, but the reduction of Advent to a period of rampant commercialism/materialism and emotionalism is a terrible thing. All but forgotten is the spiritual/faith preparation to celebrate the wonder of the birth of the Baby Jesus, our Creator come to redeem us from our sins.
Please don’t let this happen to you this Advent. This is not to say you can’t take part in the “cultural” celebrations, as long as you make sure to also spend time preparing for the celebration of the Day that changed the world forever. Here are some suggestions:
— Catholics always prepare for Holy Days by doing penance. In Advent this shouldn’t take on anything near the severity of Lent, but we should do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him.
— Add extra prayers to your daily routine. The Rosary is an excellent addition to our prayers, especially meditating on the Joyful Mysteries, or at least praying one decade every day, meditating on one of the Joyful Mysteries.
— Reading Scripture is an excellent way to renew your faith in Christ. Perhaps challenge yourself to read one of the Gospels beginning to end in Advent. Or perhaps read short passages daily from the Christmas-related texts: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, John 1:1-17.
— Of course, charitable giving is a great way to prepare for the gift of the Baby Jesus. While it is a fine practice to give presents to people we love, it is an even better practice to give to those who do not know us and cannot give anything back to us. So, make sure you make generous charitable gifts—either directly to those in need or to worthy charitable projects/institutions. The parish Giving Tree is one good way to do this, as are some of the special collections.
— Receiving the sacraments is one of the most important things you can do in Advent. Consider coming to Mass and Adoration during the week, and make sure you go to Confession. As always, we will have confessions every weekday evening during Advent, which means confession is available every single day during Advent (except Christmas Eve).
— Most importantly, live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Follow the 10 Commandments, live out the Beatitudes. Forgive others, and be kind, patient, generous, and encouraging. Love one another as Jesus, who out of love for us stripped Himself of the glory of heaven to be born in a cold manger, loves us.
— Also: take part in the many special events and liturgies scheduled in the parish this Advent. Please find the insert of the Schedule of “Advent & Christmas 2017 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?). In particular, consider:
— Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 10, I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir for “Lessons & Carols” at 7:00 pm. This is a wonderful program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings. Some people think “Lessons” means I’m going to give a lecture or something. Not at all. “Lessons” is simply an old English term for readings from Scripture. By weaving together prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, the readers lay out God’s breathtaking plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. And afterwards there will be an opportunity for joyful fellowship at a short reception (with delicious seasonal refreshments). Trust me, this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Every year the crowd gets bigger (last year we had several hundred!) because everyone who comes loves it. Please join us.
— Advent Talk. Usually I give a 3-part Advent Series on the first 3 Thursdays of Advent, but this year, because of the short season and this Thursday being the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, I’ve reluctantly decided to give only 1 talk, on Thursday, December 14 at 7:30 in the Parish Hall. My topic will be “St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer.” We’ll go over what Scripture and Catholic traditions, customs and doctrines tell us about the life and holiness this great saint. I hope to see all of you there.
Immaculate Conception. This Friday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). This great feast is integral to Advent, teaching us about Mary’s perfect preparation to receive Christ. See below for special Mass times.
Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. As I write this on Nov. 29, we officially have one day left on our Capital Campaign. As of today, we have just gone over $214,000 in pledges. While this is only half of our goal, it is not at all disappointing to me. Honestly, all things considered, especially our very soft-sell/low key approach to the campaign, while my dream was to cover the entire $400,000 cost of the project, I was realistically thinking/hoping we’d collect at least half of that. We’ve done that, and I thank all the generous donors. But let me make one final appeal: we’ll be happy to accept pledges for this anytime; please consider giving at least $25 or $50 sometime in the next few weeks. And please pray for the success of the actual project.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles