Advent, which is from the Latin word ‘adventus’ or Greek word ‘parousia’ means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. During the four weeks of Advent, we prepare for the second coming of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ in glory as universal Judge and King at the end of the world and his immediate birth at Christmas.
Hence, Advent Readings continue the theme espoused in the last weeks of the Ordinary Time, Year A, which was the last judgement, (or the second coming of Christ), and then pivots to our preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ this year on Christmas Day! With Advent, a new Church’s year begins. Starting from this Sunday, the Gospel Reading on most Sundays will be taken from the Gospel of Mark rather than the Gospel of Matthew which was read during the last year.
The Church’s liturgical year runs on a three-year cycle for Sundays. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are read in each cycle, respectively. The Gospel of John is used during Eastertide and to augment the Gospel of Mark which is a shorter Gospel. The Church’s liturgical cycle runs on a three-year cycle on Sundays, (A, B, C), and on a two-year cycle on weekdays, (1 & 2). Hence, it takes three years for the major biblical themes to be read on Sundays and two years for the same themes to be read on weekdays.
The liturgical colour for Advent is purple except for the third Sunday of Advent when rose may be used. The spirit of Advent is joyful hope; hope for the coming of the Messiah and the eventual consummation of the world when Christ will hand over the world to God so that God will become all in all, (1Cor 15:28).
This joyful expectation disposes us to prayer and to renounce whatever that is contrary to the Gospel of Christ. It also invites us to rededicate ourselves to living out the Gospel values. Liturgical celebrations during Advent are solemn because we are still in the time of expectation. Flowers in the sanctuary are subdued, Gloria is omitted but Alleluia is used. The Advent liturgical celebrations lead us to a spiritual preparation for the birth of our saviour on Christmas Day.
Christmas is a spiritual experience that God incarnated into our world to save us. “The Word took flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), “and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). In secular society, when Christmas is celebrated without a spiritual preparation, it becomes commercialised, devoid of the true meaning of Christmas; that God became our Emmanuel!
The Readings on the first week of Advent focus on Jesus’ ‘Parousia’ (second coming). The Readings on the second and third weeks of Advent concentrate on John the Baptist, the immediate precursor of Jesus Christ. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the attention of the mother Church is turned to Mary the mother of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
In the first Reading of today taken from the book of Prophet Isaiah, (Is 63:16-17; 64:1.3-8), the Lord is being urged to come to our rescue. It stated, “Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways and harden our hearts against fearing you? Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance. Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down – at your Presence the mountains would melt.” As we are awaiting the visitation of the Lord, there are many things that are weighing us down. We are looking forward with hope that the visitation of the Lord will turn our sorrows into joy.
Today’s Gospel, (Mk 13:33-37), cautions us to be awake as we await the arrival of our Lord. The arrival of our Lord must not find us wanting or lagging. We shall stay awake by praying and allowing the spirit of the beatitudes to permeate our lives by being poor in spirit, peace makers, hungering and thirsting for what is right, defending the poor and the oppressed, being voices to the voiceless, giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and visiting the sick and the lonely.
May the Lord transform our hearts as we await the birth of his Son, our saviour who is the King of kings and the Lord of lord, whose kingdom reigns forever. Amen
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp