First Sunday of Advent of year B

Posté par diaconos le 25 novembre 2020

A time of joy and hope

Premier dimanche de l'Avent : une bougie s'allume en attendant la naissance du Sauveur

# Benedict XVI, in one of his homilies, speaks of this passage given today during the season of Advent; for the Supreme Pontiff, we must pray as St Mark says, but not only : « Preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ is also the exhortation we receive from today’s Gospel : ‘Keep watch’, Jesus tells us in the brief parable of the master of the house who goes away but does not know if he will return ( Mk 13, 33-37). Watching means following the Lord, choosing what he has chosen, loving what he has loved, conforming one’s life to his own; watching means spending every moment of our time in the horizon of his love without allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the inevitable daily difficulties and problems ».

# Advent, in many Christian rites, is the liturgical time before Christmas and is preparatory to it: in Western Christian rites it marks the beginning of the new liturgical year. In the Roman rite of the Catholic Church Advent contains four Sundays and can last four weeks. It is made up of two periods; initially it looks to the future Advent of Christ in glory at the end of time, an occasion of penance; from 17 December the liturgy focuses instead on the Advent of Christ in the fullness of time, with his Incarnation. In Advent the colour of the priest’s sacred vestments is purple, except on Sundays in the third week when pink vestments may optionally be worn. This Sunday, in fact, is called Gaudete, because of the antiphon at the entrance to the Mass, which is a passage from the Letter to the Philippians in which Paul invites joy: « Rejoice always in the Lord: I repeat, rejoice, the Lord is near »[1]; the penitential character of Advent is therefore diluted by the hope of Christ’s glorious coming.
From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: « Beware, stay awake: for you do not know when the time will be right. He is like a man on a journey: leaving his home, he gave all power to his servants, put everyone in their place of work, and asked the porter to keep watch. So look, because you don’t know when the landlord arrives, in the evening or at midnight, at the cockcrow or in the morning; if he arrives unexpectedly, he wouldn’t want him to find you asleep. What I say to you now, I say to all of you: Stay awake! « (Mk 13:33-37).

# Advent (from the Latin adventus: Advent, arrival of the Messiah) is the period covering a few weeks before Christmas, four in the tradition of the Latin Church. Since the foundation of this liturgical time, by analogy with the Lenten quadragenesis, by Pope Gregory the Great, Advent represents the period in which one prepares for the coming of Christ, that is, for his birth. In churches using the Gregorian calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and marks the beginning of the liturgical year. Advent therefore begins on 27 November at the earliest and on 3 December at the latest and ends on 24 December. For the Orientals and Mozarabis, Advent lasts six weeks and begins between 11 and 15 November.

In the Catholic Church and in most Protestant Churches, the liturgical colour of this period is purple. Four candles are placed on the Advent wreath. Every Sunday in Advent an extra candle is lit. The closer the festival gets, the more light there is. The four lighted candles are a symbol of the approaching Christmas light that brings hope and peace. These candles symbolise the great stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah.

The first is the symbol of forgiveness granted to Adam and Eve. Inspired by a 16th century German tradition, the Advent wreath was invented in 1839 by the shepherd Johann Heinrich Wichern to contain the impatience of the children he brought up; he then made a wooden wreath with nineteen small red candles and four large white candles.

Every morning a small candle was lit and every Sunday a large candle was lit; the custom was to light only the large ones. The crown is traditionally made of spruce branches tied with a red ribbon and decorated with pine cones, holly, laurel and sometimes mistletoe. It is also an ancient symbol that means several things; first of all the crown symbolizes victory, besides its round shape that evokes the sun and its return every year, the number of four represents the four weeks of Advent, the four seasons and the four cardinal points, and the colour green is a sign of life and hope.

The fir tree is a symbol of strength and the laurel is a symbol of victory over sin and suffering. The latter two, together with the holly, do not lose their leaves, and thus represent the eternity of God. The flames of candles, on the other hand, are a representation of the approaching Christmas light, which brings hope and peace, and a symbol of the fight against darkness. For Christians, this crown is also the symbol of Christ the King, the holly that reminds us of the thorns of the Holy Crown placed on Christ’s head. The Advent wreath is traditionally placed on a table with its four candles or on the front door of the house as a sign of welcome.

Candles also symbolize the great stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah ; the first is the symbol of forgiveness granted to Adam and Eve, the second is the symbol of the faith of Abraham and the patriarchs who believe in the gift of the Promised Land, the third is the symbol of the joy of David whose lineage will not end and thus testifies to his covenant with God, and the fourth and last candle is the symbol of the teaching of the prophets who announced a kingdom of justice and peace. Or again, they symbolize the four phases of human history : Creation, Incarnation, Redemption of sins and the Last Judgment. Currently at Mass in the Catholic Church, the four candles are gradually lit, but the symbolism of these phases is rarely expressed. In the Orthodox Churches there are sometimes wreaths with six candles, due to the long period of Advent.

In Sweden, Advent candlesticks are white, a symbol of festivity and purity, and the wreath is reserved for the feast of St. Lucy on the 13th of December. In Canada, the Advent wreath is decorated with three purple candles and a pink candle; the pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, evoking the joy of the completion of the wait. In Austria the candles are purple, a sign of penance.

Advent is traditionally a time of joy and hope. Advent is the perspective that opens up on Christmas, a perspective of peace and light, which Christ comes to bring to the world. It is also a time of waiting: the visit we await is not only relatives and friends, it is also and above all the Lord. That is why it is important not to fall asleep, but to be vigilant so as not to miss such an important visit. We must be vigilant brothers and sisters. The new world will come from our hands, the Lord shows Himself through our gestures of love and justice. We are not deaf to the calls of our world.

To look means to wait, it means to keep alive in us the desire for a new day. This can be learned because waiting is an attitude of the poor. This is in line with the first bliss : « Blessed are those who have the souls of the poor! « Why wait any longer if we have everything ? Why learn to keep watch if we wait for nothing ? However, this waiting must be active: it is not by sitting on our hands that we await the coming of Christ.

In the Catholic Church and in most Protestant Churches, the liturgical colour of this period is purple. Four candles are placed on the Advent wreath. Every Sunday in Advent an extra candle is lit. The closer the festival gets, the more light there is. The four lighted candles are a symbol of the approaching Christmas light that brings hope and peace. These candles symbolise the great stages of salvation before the coming of the Messiah.

To look means to remain waiting, it means to keep alive in us the desire for a new day. This can be learned because waiting is an attitude of the poor. This is in line with the first bliss : « Blessed are those who have the souls of the poor! « Why wait any longer if we have everything? Why learn to keep watch if we wait for nothing? However, this waiting must be active: it is not by sitting on our hands that we await the coming of Christ.

Christ teaches us through his parables to stay awake, not to live in sleep, to keep his lamp burning, to develop our talents, to help our neighbour, not to live for ourselves, without thinking of others ». Be careful, then, because you don’t know when your landlord will come back… he might come unexpectedly and find you asleep. What I say to you here, I say to all of you: Stay awake ! « ( Mk 13, 33-37) But what can make us fall asleep, what can make us find ourselves asleep when the Lord comes ?

  Here are some sleeping pills that make us forget God

First, there are the preparations for Christmas. It is Jesus who comes, not Santa Claus, who is at the origin of all the festive bustle: gifts, visits, shopping, decorations, good food. We are so busy with all these preparations that they make us run almost always, especially if we have forgotten one gift or the other. If we are not careful we risk forgetting the main thing: Jesus, who created the first Christmas. Then there are the amusements and distractions of life that risk making us forget the essentials.

There is still that kind of indifference towards God and then there is also our good old sin, as Isaiah says in the first reading. We all have our addictions that distract us from God, that take up so much time that we forget, sometimes for quite a while, the Lord who comes. All this puts us to sleep. That is why Advent is so useful to get us out of our sleep and put us back into a state of wakefulness, of waiting for the Lord. We are invited to count on the Lord who comes to give new life to our plans, to direct the trajectory of our life better, to inflate our life of hope.

Our salvation is not primarily the work of our hands, Isaiah repeats to us : « You were irritated by our obstinacy in sin, yet we shall be saved. « Shout to God. « (Is 64:4). The first reason for our hope is that God is the first craftsman of our salvation, he is our potter and we are his clay. (Ïs 64, 7) The second reason for our hope is recalled by Paul in the second reading : « Hold fast to the end! No spiritual gift is missing!  « ( 1Co, 7a.8a) And the prophet Isaiah shows us the way.  « Invoke the name of the Lord, awaken to have recourse to God, and follow his path.  « (Is 64, 6a)

It is about creating a place for the Lord in our lives, it is about not forgetting God through personal, family and community prayer, through the observance of His commandments which all lead back to love. It is a matter of turning our hearts and hands towards our neighbours, those around us, our relatives and friends, but also the poorest, the most needy, the neediest who we are particularly invited to help during this time of Advent but who should always occupy a privileged place throughout the year and in our lives. To love ourselves also to be available to others and to God, what a beautiful preparation for Christmas, what a beautiful way to keep us awake to welcome Him who comes !

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ Father Hanly : click here to read the paper →  Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

◊Listen to the Podcast  : click here to read the paper → 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B (Nov 29, 2020)

Father Ireneusz Czech : « Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent B »

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