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Father Muench Says...

Advent: no Christmas until Christmas

Nov. 30, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

It’s Advent again so let’s take some time to talk about this special season. This morning, in preparation for Advent, I rearranged the Mass vestments; this is the time to place the green chasubles and stoles to the back of the closet as we will not be using the green vestments until Pentecost Sunday.  Now for Advent I moved the violet chasubles to the front of the closet, a color to signify this time of prayer and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the Birth of Jesus. However, Advent is not meant to be as penitential as Lent, so some think the color for Advent should be blue.

Advent signifies our journey to Bethlehem with four weeks of a spiritual preparation, special Masses and prayers and reconciliation.  Again, we start on our program of rediscovery of God’s great love for us as demonstrated in the Birth of Jesus.  Advent is truly an important moment in our Catholic liturgical year.  Some will say, “Didn’t we do this last year.”  The message of Advent is that that was last year – a whole year ago – it’s time again to renew our spiritual life with this wonderful time of Advent.  We must go through Advent each year – to renew and restore our faith in Christ’s incarnation.

By incarnation, we believe in the coming of Jesus to this world of ours, to live with us, to teach us, to die for us and to rise again to a new life.

I suspect that many think Advent is simply a time in which we postpone Christmas for a while. Everywhere else the weeks before Christmas are all about Christmas: decorations, parties and Christmas music.  At Mass during Advent we sing spiritual hymns rather than Christmas carols.  They must wait until the Christmas Masses.  No Christmas decorations until Christmas.  Indeed, at Mass during Advent – no Christmas until Christmas.

Now don’t misunderstand me , I like the Christmas decorations on the houses and the Christmas parties and the caroling.  They are sort of Advent since they remind me that Christmas is coming.  Yet, I love the Advent Masses and spiritual adventure that is Advent.  I can always go to Walmart when I get a yen for Christmas carols.

I would like to take a moment with you to consider some of the Mass prayers for Advent so that together we can recognize the spirituality that is Advent.  These prayers help me to understand Advent and to build up my faith so that I will fully celebrate Christmas.  These are the prayers that show me the path to Bethlehem.  Here is one – the first Preface for Advent.  This prayer, the Preface at all Masses, begins with a note of gratitude.  The Preface Prayer is a time for gratitude to God for this celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of the death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, here is this First Preface of Advent: “It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.”

“For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.”

Advent reminds us that this time of preparation to celebrate the Birth of Christ is also a time to renew our faith in the Second Coming of Jesus.  Jesus tells us that this Second Coming will be a complete surprise; we should not be terrified when someone comes along to tell us that it is now.  We should not believe in false announcements. 

The true reality is that the Second Coming of Jesus for us – people of faith – is now.  Each day the Lord wants to be part of our lives just as powerfully and just as truly as in His Second Coming. This promise of Jesus should give us all hope and confidence. The Lord does not forget us.  So let us use the wonderful gift of Advent  to walk with Our Savior on the road to Bethlehem.

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