By Delia Chatoor
The word ‘advent’ means ‘coming’ and it has generally been associated in the Church as a time of great expectation, preparation and waiting. Linked, however, with these expressions is the knowledge that something phenomenal is going to happen which is the coming of the Messiah and the mystery of the Incarnation.
One important reminder of the unique nature of the Season of Advent is the selection of the readings with the overarching role of St John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets and his appeal to the Jews: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mk 1:3).
Advent 2020 will, however, be different because of the continued impact of COVID-19 which will witness the absence or scale down of the activities we have associated with the season.
We can think of the end-of-term parties for children, the concerts, office get-togethers, bazaars and, of course, the Parang programmes.
It would be productive and uplifting, if we examine the new normal as yet another opportunity for us, as Church, to refocus and return to the spiritual ethos of Advent (as was done during Lent and Easter).
When the Christmas season does come, there would be a deeper appreciation of the role of John the Baptist as the herald with his call for preparation and for us to “see the salvation of our God”.
Advent also marks the beginning of a new liturgical year (Year B) during which the Church will undertake a journey through the Gospel of St Mark. This gospel positions us to live according to the teachings of Christ Jesus with the first words proclaiming: “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1).
There are many ways we can be enriched by the experiences of the season and see them in a twofold manner: (i) the commemoration of the historical event of Jesus’ incarnation and (ii) as the great expectation of the return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the end of time.
We can be more attune to the blessings we have received during the year and reach out to those who have been less fortunate and continue to be for a variety of reasons.
Can we think of the world into which John the Baptist was a witness with the hostilities and negativity from his own people? We can also look at the faith exhibited by Mary at the Annunciation and use their histories, their faith and their acceptance of their roles to guide us throughout the liturgical year.
As we go through the rituals of the season, we should be conscious of the need to be patient as we await the Christmas season and think of the chosen people who waited centuries for the long-expected and promised Messiah. We may want to get into the celebratory frame of mind and one virtue we should continue to espouse is patience.
We should, therefore, reflect anew on the messages presented through the readings with the themes of preparation, staying awake, being alert and planning for “the Day of the Lord.”
The instruction delivered in the Second Letter of St Peter on the Second Sunday of Advent could be our lodestar: “while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he (the Lord) will find you at peace” (2 Pet 3:14).
“O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish.