Dear parish family and friends,
Another liturgical year has come to a close and a new liturgical year begins. Today, we have arrived at the powerful season of Advent, a season to prepare with awe and wonder for the Feast of the Incarnation of Jesus — born to us as a child in a humble manger. It is also a season to prepare for His return in glory at the end of time. Certainly, it is a time to remind ourselves that our own individual judgment day is coming, too, when we will be called to give an account for all that God has given to us during our lifetimes.
Advent, which comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming,” is a short liturgical season comprising of four Sundays and culminating with the vigil of Christmas on December 24th. The first Sunday of Advent also marks the beginning of the liturgical year, the Church’s “New Year’s Day,” at which time the cycle of readings at Mass is changed. It is a time of joyous anticipation, but also of penance. Purple is the color of this liturgical season, with a rose color on the Third Sunday of Advent signifying the nearness of the Lord.
The Advent liturgy resounds with the longing cries of the Hebrew prophets, the voice of John the Baptist’s preaching that the Lord is near. It is also rich in imagery of Mary and Joseph who, together with all creation, waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled. In all our working, studying, playing, praying—everything that we do, let us prepare with them for the day when we shall meet Jesus, no longer in sacraments, but in person. Since no one knows neither the day nor the hour of this ultimate encounter, we live our lives in the expectation and the hope that at our death, we will be found worthy of Him.
Have you ever noticed that the Advent season often seems to come and go in the blink of an eye? All of a sudden you find yourself at Christmas wondering how it has so easily slipped through your fingers. This doesn’t have to be the case this year. You and I can make the conscious choice—right now—to stop in our busy tracks and embrace this holy time. The way we prepare our home for our guests during the holidays should inspire our own groundwork this Advent to welcome Christ into our heart—and thus truly be ready for His second coming:
1. Prepare Him room: Your heart is where Christ wishes to dwell. If your heart is filled with un-forgiveness, greed, spiritual laziness, or any sinful attachment, it has no room for Christ. Begin Advent by making an examination of conscience to find out what should not belong in your heart.
2. Clean out the cobwebs: It is important to clean out the suffocating clutters in your heart. This means making a point of getting to Confession during Advent. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest acts in the person of Christ to help you identify the cobwebs that you may not see on your own—typically those that have been hanging on for so long they no longer get your attention.
3. Hang new curtains: The room of your heart is now ready. Now it is time to hang new curtains! Many of us simply get lost in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and forget how to live in joy. The Lord loves to be with those who have joy in their hearts. So throw out the old curtains of despair and exhaustion and hang new curtains of joy and anticipation.
4. Set the table: Company is on its way! We are certain of Christ’s arrival as we hear the Church urgently proclaims “The Lord is near!” This is the time to get the fine china out of the cupboard—our smile, our patience, our generosity, our enthusiasm, our charitable attitude. These virtues quicken our hearts in anticipation of His presence.
5. Open wide the door: After all the preparation is complete, we open our door and wait expectantly for the guest. It is a time of quiet for us—all the work is finished and we are ready. So in preparing our hearts for Christ this Advent, the last step after all the prep work is to simply “be.” Be vigilant; be alert; be prayerful. In this state of “being” we don’t question how time slipped through our fingers; we don’t worry if there was more we should have done. We’ve been good and faithful servants and are ready for Christ.
May your heart be made ready for Christ and may your Advent season be a blessed one!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham