Advent, is from the Latin word ‘adventus’ or Greek word ‘parousia.’ It 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 themes espoused in the last weeks of the Ordinary Time of the Church’s year which included the end of the world, last judgement, the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead, and it gradually focuses on our preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day! With Advent, a new Church’s Liturgical year begins. Starting from this Sunday, the Gospel reading on most Sundays will be taken from the Gospel of Luke rather than the Gospel of Mark which was read during the last year.
The Church’s Liturgical year runs on a three-year cycle for Sundays. The synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke are read in each year cycle respectively. The Gospel of John is read 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 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 be “all in all.” (1Cor 15:28).
This joyful expectation disposes us to prayer and to renounce whatever is contrary to the Gospel of Christ. It also invites us to re-dedicate 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, (Jer 33:14-16), the Lord stated that the days are coming when he will fulfil the promise he made to the house of Israel. That promise was linked to the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. Psalm 132: 11, narrated this promise, “Yahweh has sworn to David, and will always remain true to his word, ‘I promise that I will set a son of yours upon your throne. ‘” Hence, this promise was fulfilled when “a virtuous Branch” grew “for David.” This ‘virtuous branch’ is no other person than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who was descended from the line of David.
Today’s Gospel, (Lk 21:25-28. 34-36), presented us with a scene of the second coming of Christ as narrated by St Luke. This apocalyptic writing stated that his second coming would be preceded by cosmic activities such as the darkening of the Sun, (solar eclipse). It insisted that the faithful need not be afraid of Christ coming in glory, because he would come to liberate the Lord’s chosen. The Gospel admonishes us not to become complacent but to remain watchful in prayer as we await our redemption.
May the Lord transform our hearts as we await the coming of his Son, who is our Lord and Saviour, and may he grant freedom to anyone who is being held in bondage in the world today. Amen
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp