Greeting on this First Sunday of Advent. This is the first day of the new Liturgical Year. Our countdown to the Celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, Christmas has begun.
We see wreathes everywhere this time of year. Most notably our Advent Wreath. The very shape of the O, the first word of the O antiphons, signified in the Advent wreath, is a figure of fullness. Saint Paul illustrates this "O" With his Words in the letter to the Galatians: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman... so that we might receive adoption as sons."
The yearly round of Advent recalls the perfection of God's timing in the mystery of redemption. It makes that moment present again through thankful remembrance. But more than this, it proclaims that Time itself is fulfilled, being now filled with the fullness of Him in whom dwells the fullness of God.
Advent, then, is not only the celebration of God's coming to us, but also of our coming to him. It is after all a season of repentance. So the hour is ripe in a double sense. It is time again to mend the broken circles of our lives by returning, as a circle does, to our point of origin. Christmas makes this possible, for by the birth of God-made-man, man comes back to God in the same moment as he comes to us.
Mary's Fiat, her "let it be", made it so, when she gave all humanity to God in the very act of giving God a humanity.
Since the great"O" suggests ripe fullness, it images the womb of the Virgin in late pregnancy, round and full of Christ.
The "O" also reflects the catholicity of the Church, full of the grace of Christ's indwelling in ministry, sacrament, holy scripture and two thousand years of worship.
The great "O" then ultimately stands for Mary and the Universal Church, the Virgin pregnant and the One Holy Church: both expectant of the Messiah. One as Mother of the historical Jesus, Head of the Body; the other as the Community of hope in which are born the members of that Body. Each heavy with salvation. Each announcing with perfect conviction the certainty of his coming.
As once Mary's enlarged form encircled his first arrival in the flesh, making his epiphany inevitable, so the Christian life, swollen with grace, affirms the inevitability of his second coming in glory at the end of history.
Between these two poles runs the axis of his many comings in mystery through the Liturgy. Here past and future converge as Eternity enters into time mystically, touching and transforming every present moment into salvation history. The present moment is the only moment we have; it is a gift handed to us by the future and immediately reclaimed by the past. We cannot stockpile the present.
When Jesus comes it will be in the present moment; he will not come in the past nor will he come in the future - his coming is always now - because that is the only moment in time in which we exist.
(Some of the above paragraphs are excepts from the book "Seven Bells to Bethlehem," by Oliver Treanor)
The Advent Wreath at Home
I encourage families to have an advent wreath on their dinner tables, or other suitable location. It can be a simple green wreath, with four candles, (white will do, but three violet and one rose is customary). Beginning on the first Sunday of Advent the first violet candle is lit. When the candle is lit, grace can then be prayed. That same candle may be lit for grace each day of that Week. (Depending on the size of the candle, it does not have remain the entire dinner.) On the second Sunday, the candle from the first week and then a second violet candle are lit. On the Third Sunday, the rose colored candle is lit, along with the previous two. By the fourth Sunday all four will be lit. This is a good pious devotion in preparation for Christmas.
God bless you all,
Father Robert Letona