The season of Advent which we begin today has frequently been compared to pregnancy. On one level, that is obvious. We are just under four weeks away from Christmas. The image of Christ as a newborn baby obviously leads us to reflect on Mary’s pregnancy. Yet as the Church has structured our observance of Advent, this first part of the season is not so much about preparation for Christmas as it is for the Second Coming of Christ. We have a reminder that we live all our lives in a time of anticipation. As a family awaiting the birth of a child comes to feel that their home is not complete until the child arrives, so we know that our world is never complete until we live every moment of our lives in a total and complete devotion to God. Recognizing that we will never reach that state on earth, we live our whole lives in anticipation. Christ is coming, and we see that promise as something real in our lives.
To speak thus of Advent as a time of preparation can make us as nervous as a young couple expecting their first child. Yet at the same time, our faith in Christ gives us the certainty of His gift of salvation. So this Advent becomes a time of joy and hope, even as it becomes a time of preparation. We may see similarities between our observance of Advent and that of the Lenten season which prepares us for Easter, but there are real contrasts. In both seasons, we simplify the decorations and the celebration of the liturgy. For instance, we do not sing the “Glory to God” at Mass during these seasons. In Lent, that change is a sign of our penitential spirit. In Advent, these changes are meant to remind us that we are in preparation and that our celebration is not complete until Christ comes.
There is still a penitential spirit to this season, of course. As a family starts thinking about things like gates on the stairs to keep a young toddler safe, so we look to make our lives more fitting for Christ to come in. As we prepare to begin the “Year of Mercy” proclaimed by Pope Francis, many people will be coming to Confession. In addition to our regular time of Saturday afternoons from 3:00 to 3:45, we will join with all parishes in the diocese to sponsor “The Light is On For You,” when every parish will offer Confessions on Wednesday evening, December 9, from 6:00 to 9:00.