The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

1st Sunday of Advent Year A - 28 November 2010

And so, once again, we begin the liturgical year of the Church.  It's quite interesting to think that the beginning reminds us to focus on the end and on being ready.

While in one sense Advent is closely related to Christmas it also has a significance of its own.  This is a penetential time and like all Christian penance the emphasis is on preparing oneself, not on making onself suffer.  As we prepare for the end (as the gospel reading reminds us) we also prepare for the beginning which gives meaning to that end.

The coming of Christ marks the definitive moment in our salvation.  The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, however, only marks the first part of that definitive moment which will only be completed by the return of Christ in glory.

In a sense, Advent prepares us for Christmas but also looks through Christmas to what we might call the Christ Event as a whole.  The first Christians believed that Christ's return was imminent.  Now, after 2000 years we continue to engage with the Christ Event as we continue to wait.

The Christ Event includes the whole mystery of the incarnation, the life and teaching of Jesus, his death and resurrection - and culminates in his return in glory.  Advent focuses us on the reason we should be willing to wait - that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to be our saviour.

So, in a certain sense we are the watch keepers - those who quite literally keep watch for the return of the Lord and as we keep watch we are reminded many times in the gospels that we need to be ready because the day of his return will surprise us.

It is interesting to note that the Advent wreath is totally focused on time.  It is, in fact, a watch of sorts.  The wreath itself is circular - it has no beginning and no end, just as God has neither beginning or end.  Traditionally, the wreath is green - the traditional colour of life and hope in many cultures.  The candles are purple, the colour of penance with the exception of one which we will light on the 3rd Sunday as a reminder to us that Christian penance is not all about sadness.  As the candles are consumed by the flame they remind us that time is passing.  It is important to allow the candles to be consumed - to replace them might make things look prettier but this is a serious tool to teach us that time is passing.  Often, there is a fifth candle placed in the centre of the wreath.  This white-coloured candle is lit during the midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  It echoes the Paschal Candle which is lit during the Church's other great vigil on Holy Saturday.


Article posted on 26th of November 2010

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