Advent - A Time to Prepare
Ann Lukens, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Leader
Moody AFB Catholic Faith Community
A popular holiday song declares that, “… it’s beginning to look like Christmas, everywhere you go.” This year, it seems that Christmas was on the minds of Big Business even before the Jack-o-Lanterns had burned out. It has been a volatile year for the economy so it was even more imperative for them to ensure that “Black Friday” (e.g., the Friday after Thanksgiving) would be a commercial and financial success, so the ad campaigns began by Halloween this year. Some of us may have already heard at least one person complain they were tired of Christmas already!
Advent as we know it was not celebrated by Christians until the 4th century as their one holyday was Easter. By 354 A.D., with Christmas being celebrated in Rome, the weeks before Christmas was a time when some early Bishops encouraged their members to fast three days a week in anticipation of the commemoration of Christ’s birth (Our Sunday Visitor, Vol 96, No 31, 2 Dec 07, Our Sunday Visitor Press, page 15). The earliest reference to Advent as a four week period of preparation was in the writings of Pope Gregory I (590-604). For the modern Catholic, Advent is the season between the two official civil holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many parishes offer communal Penance Services with an opportunity for individual celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In some ways Advent serves as a “spiritual tonic for the secular emphasis of the season” (The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook, page 19-20, Liguori Publications, 2000). Catholics and Christians of other denominations like to remind the world that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “to keep Christ in Christmas”.
Advent is best understood as a period of celebration and preparation for the commemoration of Christ’s entry into our world as an event in salvation history. It is a reminder that we were made for God; that He loved us enough to enter into our existence. It is a time to ponder which world we wish to be permanent citizens in… this flawed but beautiful and passing one or the eternal world to come. That is the invitation; the decision to live as a Catholic Christian is up to each one of us to make. As Catholics we are encouraged to be in this world, but not part of it.
The weeks before Christmas are traditionally a time for film makers to debut their holiday movies in hopes of making money. In recent years we have seen the debut of the first of the delightful “Chronicles of Narnia” trilogy. The film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, introduced children and adults alike to a fantasy world rich with Christian themes based on the books written by C.S. Lewis. Hollywood is doing it again, but the product is not a Narnia.
A film, The Golden Compass, based on the book of the same name by British author Philip Pullman, will debut on 7 Dec. It—like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—is the first in a trilogy of popular books for children. The other titles are, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. But there the similarities begin to end. Pullman is a gifted award-winning writer, but he is also an avowed atheist. The movie is lavishly made and has been heavily marketed. Like many movies based on books, The Golden Compass leaves out material in hopes of making it more palatable to audiences. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched a campaign to educate Catholics about the movie and the series of books. If received or purchased, parents should read the books if their child reads them so you can be aware of and engage your children in discussion about various themes.
So… while we are finishing our shopping, baking, cooking or making our gifts, let’s also pause to consider what Advent was intended to be... a time to contemplate the love of our God Who entered into our history to save us. Hallelujah!