Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission explains what the Church proclaims in this current season. He returns to his series of articles on the Eucharistic celebration next Sunday.
We began a new liturgical year on the First Sunday of Advent—a good moment to reflect on time and worship. Using time (specific days and seasons), Christians have always proclaimed their worship.
The first part of our calendar was the Sunday celebration which began in the very early days of the Church. Easter was celebrated from the second century with Lent growing shortly after. Christmas became part of the calendar in the early fourth century with Advent evolving after. Saints days and other feast days grew slowly from the early days of the Church’s history.
Over time, the calendar developed in which the Church focuses on the great acts of God on our behalf, as the days and seasons remind us of all that God has offered us. The whole structure of the Church’s year, author James White tells us, calls attention to God’s work.
The General Norms of the Liturgical Year and Calendar says, “The Church celebrates the memory of Christ’s saving work on appointed days in the course of the year ….Throughout the year the entire mystery of Christ is unfolded….”
As we celebrate this mystery, for example in Advent, we are proclaiming our faith that Christ will come again and that He has already come in the flesh.
We proclaim and thank God for the salvation these great blessings offer us. But we are also being transformed—the Christian year is a vital means through which God is given to us, for each time we celebrate we are pushed deeper into our encounter with God. It is a constant means of grace (James White).
Let us look more closely at Advent—what are we proclaiming? For what are we thanking God? How are we being pushed deeper?
The season of Advent has a two-fold character—the first three weeks (approximately) of Advent direct us to Christ’s second coming at the end of time while the days from December 17 prepare us to celebrate His first coming. The prayers and readings at Mass have these two foci.
We are proclaiming God’s love and our faith in these two actions of the Lord.
We are proclaiming that we believe that history is going somewhere, that life is not meaningless, that the Lord of history is at work and will bring all things to Himself.
We are also proclaiming our faith in the Incarnation, that God so loved the world that the Word became flesh and lived among us.
We are thanking God for these great acts that He works for our salvation, for these gifts of grace that God gives us.
Each time we celebrate Advent, our faith can grow, and we can come to deeper conversion. As we proclaim and thank God that Christ will come again, we can grow in hope in recognising the meaning of life, of putting things in the right perspective, of being a person of hope.
As we proclaim and thank God that Christ was born, we can grow more grateful that God has so loved the world; we can become more joy-filled, more appreciative of all that God has created; we can become humbler and loving.
All of this as year after year we celebrate this wonderful season of Advent.