First Sunday of Advent
Season of Advent. Today we begin the 4 weeks of Advent. Many people forget that this season is primarily about preparing for Christmas and instead spend these weeks pre-maturely celebrating Christmas. 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 a bad thing, if we see it as part of the strong influence of Christianity on our culture. For many Catholics this is largely what is going on—people around them start celebrating Christmas, and it’s such a wonderful feast they (Catholics) get all caught up in it.
But this phenomenon is 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. Whereas, not too many years ago we might see a gradual movement toward celebrating Christmas in the first weeks of December, nowadays Christmas is everywhere the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, this year it seems to have started before Halloween. 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. 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. (And of course, there’s always the Parish Offertory Campaign…)
— 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. Once again 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 2014 Events” in this bulletin, look it over carefully and keep in somewhere central in your house (on the fridge door?).
Three parish “special events” I’d like to call your attention to in particular are:
— Lessons and Carols. On Sunday, December 14, I invite you to join us at 6:30pm for a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings, called “Lessons and Carols.” 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 Our Savior. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular hymns and stretching their vocal wings in a few more complicated choral pieces. Please join us; if you don’t, you’ll be missing something truly special.
— Advent Series. I invite you all to attend my Advent Series on the 3 Thursday evenings of Advent: “Male and Female He Created them: the Catholic Understanding of Marriage.” With all the talk and confusion nowadays about the definition of marriage, and the Church’s teaching on marriage, this seems like a perfect time to revisit this teaching. I spent a lot of my academic career studying this subject, especially as it was presented by St. John Paul II, so it’s a subject dear to my heart. I hope I can share some of that with you in my talks.
— Sung High Mass. On Monday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the regular 7pm evening Mass will be Sung High Mass (“Missa Cantata”) according to the Extraordinary Form (“Traditional Latin Mass”). We did this in August for the Assumption and the standing-room-only crowd was overwhelmed by the beauty of the ritual and music. Please join us in offering this special tribute to our Blessed Mother.
Family Assistance. Our parishioners have been very generous in contributing to our parish fund to help those who are in need of financial assistance. If you are aware of a family or person that is in need of assistance this Advent, especially a parishioner, please do not hesitate to bring this to my attention.
Rest in Peace. As we end this month of November, dedicated to praying for the Faithful Departed, we especially keep in prayer all our parishioners who have gone before us. I particularly commend to your prayer parishioner Donna Maurer (mother of founding parishioner Mark Maurer and his amazing wife Becky), who passed into eternal life on November 18, after a long, fruitful and devout life. Her funeral will be tomorrow, Monday, December 1. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles