|FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT|
|READING AND PRAYER|
|LIGHTING OF THE FIRST CANDLE|
The first thing the Lord Jesus gives us in this new Church year, which begins today with the First Sunday of Advent, is a command, a clear and direct command: Be watchful! Be alert! We might translate this a little more directly and in less elevated language; He’s saying: Wake up! Pay attention! And if we don’t start our Advent this way – the way He (more than) suggests, we will have a hard time moving forward.
“Pay attention!” because something remarkable is beginning, something wondrous and of the utmost importance to your life is happening, something earth-shattering and life-changing. But what is happening – in spite of its magnitude – is very subtle, very quiet, and very gentle, yet powerful beyond our imagining. And we could miss it.
The old year in the Church’s calendar ended on the high note of the celebration of Christ as King of, well, absolutely everything – King of the Universe, no small title that! This is the culmination of the whole year’s liturgical movement – from His Birth through His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, and forward even, until the end of time when He will be All in All.
The new year begins, perhaps surprisingly, not with His Birth, not even with His Conception (that reality, the first moment of the Incarnation, celebrated already at the Annunciation on the 25th of March, is wrapped and gently hidden in the womb of Mary and of the old year), but with a period of preparation ... of much-needed preparation.
The rhythm of the liturgical seasons is much more about helping us than about simply marking the great events of salvation history. And we need that help to get ready. At least I need it – and I dare say that we all, together, need it – in order to enter into the mystery that Christmas is: to welcome Christ at Christmas and at His Second Coming (but no one will be able to ignore that!), and, most crucially, at His mysterious Coming In-between. And it is especially the preparation for that great moment that the liturgy and its calendar, and in a special way Advent, seek to prepare us.