Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: Advent Reflections for All -- 2003
Posted on 11/29/2003 8:34:00 AM PST by Salvation
The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.
Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor.
The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes.
I will do a separate Advent wreath Thread as well as a separate Advent Calendar Thread.
Come, Lord Jesus!
During Advent the Gospel readings from Luke highlight:
· the constant prayer needed by disciples to remain faithful to their mission
· the call of Christians to be advocates of justice (hesed)
· John the Baptist's call to repentance and penance
· the tension of maintaining the proper balance between passive waiting and proactive waiting
· Advent's wake-up call to the world-a countercultural plea to engage in the deeper meaning of the season.
The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent deals with two primary issues: the need to give witness to Christ in the face of impending religious persecution and the necessity of persevering while waiting for his return.
The Gospel for the second Sunday of Advent introduces us to John the Baptist who called for a baptism of repentance. John called for nothing less than a complete metanoia, a turning away from sin and a turning toward the God who transforms and heals.
In the Gospel for the third Sunday of Advent, Luke insists on practical commitments when it comes to issues of conversion. Neither tax collector nor soldier was to exploit for purposes of self-gain. The citizens on the other hand were to act justly toward the needy.
On the last Sunday of Advent, Mary and Elizabeth, two great women of Scripture, listen to God and become the ultimate paradigm of disciple.
1. Luke's community seeks to deal with the pastoral reality that Jesus' return is not as imminent as the earlier church community believed. Luke was concerned with issues of relationship, relationship with God and with one another, while still focusing on and hoping for the parousia. The end would come soon enough; disciples must keep a watchful, hopeful vigil, but they must also maintain an active pryer life if they are to withstand the temptations of their present reality. Only through constant prayer will the work of transformation and ongoing relationship with Christ grow.
>> How can Advent be a time of renewed prayer for myself and my community?
2. The Scriptures of Advent challenge us to wait for the day of the Lord, but they also demand that justice reign. In the biblical sense, justice (Hebrew: hesed) refers to right relationship with God as evidenced by one's behavior toward God and God's people. The demands of justice are not suggestions, they are commands. Advent asks the tough question: How are we living hesed relationships with our God? If we are God's people, if we are in covenant relationship with God, then we must be advocates of justice wherever injustice takes center stage.
>> How can Advent be a time of renewing our understanding of justice and practicing it more fully?
3. Another theme that echoes through the season is penance. God's people are to recognize, name, and lament over the evil that permeates the world and work to eradicate it. Throughout Advent we hear the ancient prophets who cry, "Repent and change your lives!" The prophets' cry is as relevant today as it was then. They foretold the light that would shine in the darkness. Christ is that light. We are to embrace the light and become the light of Christ in the world.
>> How can Advent be a time of chasing away the darkness in our lives and in our world?
4. Advent explores two realities: the kingdom here and now and the kingdom yet to come. We live in the midst of that tension. We struggle just as Luke struggled to maintain the proper balance between passive waiting and proactive waiting. When we are proactive we cooperate in the work of history making. We enter salvation history with God and seek to alter injustice when we see it. We enter the struggle of the kingdom here and now with a vigilant eye and hopeful anticipation of the kingdom yet to come.
>> How can Advent be a time of entering into salvation history with God?
5. Advent is a wake-up call to the world. Advent's message is a countercultural plea to engage in the deeper meaning of the season. It is a mandate to reflect upon and prepare for the second coming of Christ while looking forward to the celebration of the incarnation, the ultimate gift of God's personhood to the world. We can do nothing less than ask ourselves the questions of human response and responsibility in the face of such a gratuitous gift.
>> How can Advent be a time of challenging the values of our culture that are not in harmony with Gospel values?
[Adapted from Word and Worship Workbook for Year C. Mary Birmingham. New York: Paulist Press, 1998, pp. 44-45.]
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Sometimes called the root of Jesse or radix Jesse in Latin, the Jesse tree is a visual representation of Jesus' genealogy which dates back to the father of David who was Jesse. The biblical references used habitually to establish Christ's descent from David are the following:
The Fathers of the Church and Latin hymns refer to the tree of Jesse not only when speaking about the line of David (radix Jesse) but also when speaking of Mary (virga ex radice = branch or offshoot of the root of Jesse) and Jesus (flos ex virga = flower that blossoms on the branch). Based on these literary sources, the visual rendering of the Jesse tree shows Jesse in reclined and slumbering position, a tree growing out of his body on whose branches a changing and diverse group of ancestors can be observed.
The tree which is patterned after the tree of life in paradise and the cross as the definitive tree of life habitually shows a series of kings of the Solomonic line, or prophets and evangelists. The top of the tree is composed of Mary, Jesus and angels, sometimes with reference to the gifts of the Spirit. But variations are frequent. The artistic motif of the Jesse tree is known beginning in the 11th century and seems to have disappeared in the 16th century. During the time of bloom it found many and diversified ways of realization from illuminations to bronze doors (for example, St. Zeno, Verona). The example here presented is taken from a psalter of the 13th century, the so-called Ingeborg Psalter (1210) conserved today in Chantilly, Paris.
The tree is highly stylized and of sophisticated ornamentation. Jesse is lying on his bed more pensive than slumbering. He wears the typical Jewish hat. From the mid-section of his body or rather behind it, the trunk of the tree rises to a height of four levels or tiers each once of them in the shape of a chalice.
They show in ascending order [from left to right] Abraham, David, Mary and Jesus Christ. It is the royal line. For this reason all figures except Christ wear crowns.
They are flanked by Old testament figures on both sides. We have on the left: Malachi standing next to Jesse followed by Daniel and Isaiah in ascending order.
To the right of Jesse we have Aaron, Ezekiel, and an exception to the group of prophets, a feminine figure which represents the Sybil of Cumae.
|Aaron||Ezekiel||Sybil of Cumae|
These figures are in all likelihood characters taken from a mystery play, the so called mystery of Rouen. They present, with the exception of Aaron who is designated as high priest and holds the blooming staff, open scrolls with part of their vision about the coming Savior (not necessarily corresponding to the exact Scripture quote). The Cumaean Sybil reminds the reader of the finiteness of all creation. Ezekiel speaks about the closed door (reference to Mary's virginity) through which God alone will proceed. Malachi proclaims the grandeur of God's name, whereas Daniel in his visions of the four beasts celebrates God's definitive victory over evil. Isaiah announces the rule of Immanuel. The dove next to the prophet's head indicates the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, who is enthroned at the top of the tree which, in fact, is not a tree but an edifice symbolizing the house of David, rules as the Pantokrator both blessing (right hand) and judging (book in the left hand). He is surrounded by two worshiping angels and the seven doves, symbols of the seven gifts of the Spirit: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11,2-3).
The Scriptures read at Sunday Mass are not arbitraily chosen by the pastor or parishioner. The Church has a three-year cycle of set readings.
In this cycle, Year One centers on Matthew's Gospel, Year Two on Mark, and Year Three on Luke. (Passages from Hohn are interspersed in the sequence of Gospels every year.)
The Weekday Gospels
The weekday Gospels, however, are the same every year. Since there are many more weekdays than Sundays, they cover a greater part of all four Gospels.
Generally speaking, the weekday Gospels use passages that are never read on Sundays
During Advent we will use the Gospel passaged assigned for the weekday Masses. This will give many a chance to reflect on and pray passages of the Gospels that they have seldom heard proclaimed or preached at Liturgy.
Spend today's six minutes (prayer time) by sketching or writing out some ideas on how you can spend these 24 days of Advent well. Your plans can include items that are practical (your gift list).....personal (sending a Christmas card to someone you've not been on good terms with).....charitable (doing something for the poor).....spiritual (deciding where and when you will pray each day).
Tomorrow we'll start reading from the weekday Gospels of Advent.
Easter, Lent and Advent
From the beginning, the main Christian feast was Easter, and this is still true today Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday are the holiest days of the year. And, every Sunday is called a Little Easter. (That is why, from early times, penitential actions such as fasting and kneeling were prohibited on Sundays, even during Lent.)
The death/resurrection of Jesus took place during the feast of Passover. But there is no way of knowing what time of the year Jesus was born. In the fourth century, the feast of his birth began to be celebrated on December 25, apparently to replace the pagan feast of the unconquered sun (the time of year when the days started getting longer again). The feast of the re-birth of the sun was replaced by the feast of the birth of the Light of the World.
Just as there was a time of preparation for Easter (Lent), there also developed a time of preparation for Christmas Advent. This season varied in length, but eventually the practice of beginning Advent on the fourth Sunday before Christmas became the norm.
As the above passage continues, Jesus will marvel at the faith of this Gentile centurion. He will then send the centurion home with the assurance that his servant is healed. Matthew will note: And the servant was healed at that very moment."
The centurion had no doubt that Jesus could heal from a distance. It was only a question of whether Jesus would choose to heal the servant at all. When Jesus says to him, Go. Let it be done for you according to your faith, the centurion fully believes that the servant is indeed healed.
It might be worthwhile to think about the level of my faith. When I pray and ask God to do something and it doesnt happen, what kinds of thoughts cross my mind?
· Do I wonder if God could really do it?
· Do I believe that God could, and trust that God didnt because theres more to it than I can see?
· Do I believe that God could, and wonder why God wouldnt, and decide that its more or less because of my own sinfulness?
Dont answer too quickly.
Talk to the Lord about it.
The El Salvador Martyrs
In 1980, Ita Ford, a Maryknoll sister serving in El Salvador wrote a letter to her 16-year-old niece and godchild, Jennifer Ford. In it, she said:
I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for maybe even worth dying for, something that energizes you, enables you to keep moving ahead.
I cant tell you what it might be thats for you to find, to choose, to love. I can just encourage you to start looking and support you in the search.
Three months later on December 2, Sister Ita and three other women missionaries were killed by a death squad in El Salvador
This small section of Lukes Gospel has what would be called a very high theology which emphasizes the divinity of Jesus
In the story of his birth, the angel Gabriel said to Mary: The Holy Spirit will come upon you ..Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
Make no mistake about it. The child born in Bethlehem is not simply a great prophet ..not simply a miracle-worker ..not simply someone specially chosen by God. The child born in Bethlehem is the Son of God.
In our relationship with Jesus, we always have to balance intimacy and reverence. Jesus did not come for us simply to look at him in distant adoration. He came so that we could join intimately with him and share in his own relationship with the Father.
On the other hand, we need to be reverent. We need to be aware of who it is we are relating to so closely ..whom we are joining with in the Eucharistic prayer ..whom we are receiving when we take the Bread and the Cup.
·Intimacy and reverence. I could work on both right now as I spend some time with the Lord.
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