What Happened to Advent?

News: Commentary
by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 7, 2020   

Time of preparation, not celebration

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When did you hear the first Christmas carol this year? I was in a store about a week before Halloween when some sleighbell-laced tune jingled out of the PA system. Apparently, now the "holiday season" begins in mid-October. I thought, "What happened to Advent?"

Even in so many Catholic homes, there are Christmas trees, colored lights and Christmas music immediately after Thanksgiving. I'm not condemning my fellow Catholics who have already decorated their homes. I understand the happiness associated with all the external signs of Christmas, which is why it's so important to be in the anticipation phase — so that we can be more spiritually ready when the great feast of Christmas actually arrives.

Even more, it's Holy Mother Church Herself who demands a short season of sobriety from us. She has given us Advent as a time of anticipation before Christmas, uniting us in a special way to the holy people of the Old Testament who waited, generation after generation, for the long-awaited Messiah to arrive.

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During this period of anticipation — sometimes referred to as a "little Lent" — the Church forbids flowers on altars, relics are put away, extraneous organ music is silenced and the Gloria is not prayed.

In other words, the Church directs us to hold off on the festivities and merrymaking to be more restrained in our outward show of joy — to wait in anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Our Lord.

Even the changing prayers during Mass are more penitential in their tone and express a longing to see the coming of the Redeemer.

During this season of Advent, wait in sober anticipation with Holy Mother Church for the celebration of the birth of Our Lord.

In the epistle from the first Sunday of Advent, St. Paul admonishes that "our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe," while the Psalm used for the Gradual says, "No one who waits for You shall be put to shame."

We also have beautiful Advent carols expressing the same sentiments, especially "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel":

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

The Nativity of Jesus

And like a good Mother, the Church does not leave us wanting once the joyous season of Christmas arrives. She has given us not only Christmas Day but the entire Christmas Octave — the seven days following Christmas Day — in which it is just as much Christmas liturgically through Jan. 1 as it is on Dec. 25.

And in the traditional calendar, the entire Christmas season continues through Feb. 2, or on the baptism of the Lord in the new calendar. By then, in the rest of the world Christmas trees will have long been thrown out and stores will have sold the last of their "holiday" swag to prepare for Valentine's Day.

But then again, the world doesn't really understand the joy of Christmas. It's the beginning of a love affair God has with sinners — when the Second Person of the Holy Trinity finally took our flesh upon Himself and blazed a path to Heaven, leading us safely through the wretched wilderness of sin and death.

During this season of Advent, wait in sober anticipation with Holy Mother Church for the celebration of the birth of Our Lord. And once He arrives — break out the decorations, the food and festivities. There might be work-related Christmas parties and hymn-singing going on before Dec. 25, and it's not wrong to partake in those. But try to remember that "Holy Mother Church knows best," and don't lose your sense of anticipation that is proper for this time of year. That way, when it's time to actually celebrate, you'll be ready. 

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