Advent, is from the Latin word ‘adventus’ or Greek word ‘parousia’, which 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 continues the theme espoused in the last weeks of the ordinary time of the Church’s year which was the last judgement, (or the second coming of Christ), and expands to include our preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day! With Advent, a new Church’s liturgical year begins. From this Sunday, the Gospel reading on most Sundays will be taken from the Gospel of Matthew rather than the Gospel of Luke that has been read during the last year. The Church’s liturgical year runs on a three-year cycle for Sundays. The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are read in each year cycle respectively. The Gospel of John is used during Eastertide and on five Sundays in Ordinary Time during Year B to augment the Gospel of Mark which is the shortest of the synoptic Gospels. The Church’s liturgical cycle runs on a two-year cycle on weekdays. 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, (like Lent), except on 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 pray and to renounce whatever is contrary to the Gospel of Christ. It encourages 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 this 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, (Is 2:1-5), Prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming messianic time when there will be peace and harmony among nations. This peaceful co-existence of different nations will be symbolised by their gathering in the Temple of the Lord on Mount Zion to pray and to receive instructions on the Lord’s commandments; which will lead them to hammer “their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles.”
The Second Reading, (Romans 13:11-14), invites us to stay awake because our salvation is at hand. This theme of staying awake is repeated in today’s Gospel, (Mat 24:37-44), where it stated categorically, “’So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.” It recalled what happened in Noah’s time, how people were going about their normal businesses – eating, drinking, trading and marrying until when the flood suddenly came that submerged the land. Thus, we must be prepared in season and out of season for the second coming of Christ, and for his re-birth on Christmas Day!
May the Lord transform our hearts as we await the coming of his Son, who is our Lord and saviour, and may he also grant freedom to anyone who is being held in bondage in the world today.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp