Skip to comments.For Advent: The Sunday Propers: Advent and Penance
Posted on 11/29/2014 6:04:59 PM PST by Salvation
While it is sometimes forgotten in the minds of Catholics today, the season of Advent is ultimately a penitential season. The priest wears purple vestments (with the exception of Gaudete Sunday) and the Gloria being omitted are two ways this is signified. When the reader hears “penitential”, he automatically thinks of sorrow for sin, such as during the Lenten season. While this is indeed part of our penitential journey during this season, the Propers of this Sunday’s liturgy in the Extraordinary Form tell us a different story.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent distinguishes between a true penance and a false penance. There needs to be more to penance than sorrow for sin. Judas was clearly sorry for his sins, but he did not exercise penance when he hanged himself. The Roman Catechism rightly teaches that penance “assists us in restraining within the bounds of moderation our sense of sorrow.”
This moderation comes through a reminder of the hope that the Gospel provides, and it is this aspect of penance that is emphasized throughout the season of Advent. Today’s Introit reminds us that those who trust in God will not be put to shame. (Psalm 24:1-3) When exercised properly, shame is a good thing. It reminds us of our humanity and a need of a Savior. When exercised improperly, there is little deadlier. We all know of times when we felt great shame for a sin, and sometimes this shame even kept us away from God. “Nobody can forgive what I have done” is a very frequent refrain, and this is the language of an extreme shame. The Introit reminds us that no matter how strong our sense of shame, God’s sense of mercy is even stronger. The Psalmist gives us a guarantee: if you trust in God, you will never be left to your shame.
Another aspect of penance besides sorrow is that of discipline. With Advent, we are about to undertake a great journey, one that will require much discipline. St Paul’s Epistle tells us “now the hour for us to rise from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe. “ (Romans 13:11-14) Advent should cause us to have even more hope than normal due to the pending birth of Christ. While sometimes Advent is described as a season of “waiting for the Lord”, this concept seems alien in the Epistle. Instead of a passive waiting, St. Paul commands us to rise up! Instead of standing still, he urges to “walk in the day.” When one walks in the day, one can see where they are going, the path is sure. This is opposed to walking in darkness, where one wanders around aimlessly. St. Paul tells us that this aimless walking is the Christian living in his sins, instead of walking the sure path Christ has laid out for us. Advent is a chance to redouble our efforts on this path.
As with any other path, the path of our redemption has landmarks and signs. Christ tells us that “upon the earth distress of nations bewildered by the roaring of sea and waves; men fainting for fear and for expectation of the things that are coming on the world.” (Luke 21:25-33) While this is often interpreted in an eschatological (End Times) scenario, we should not ignore the immediate truth of this passage. In the Gospel, Christ contrasts the “distress of nations” with the hope Christians should feel that “their redemption is at hand.” What I find interesting here is that both “the nations” and the followers of Christ realize that something is wrong, and that there is a disconnect between how things should be, and how they are. The difference is instead in their reaction. The world trembles and is afraid, whereas the follower of Christ is overjoyed. For the nations, this world is all they have. If it isn’t sufficient, what else is there? We can answer that “what else” is Christ, and that should be a source of joy.
When Our Lord says “your redemption is at hand”, we can also look at this in a liturgical context. At this point of Mass, we should be looking with hope towards receiving our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, because He is both our hope and redemption. While we anticipate Our Lord’s birth during Advent, it should also be a time to have a renewed appreciation of our ability to behold Christ in the here and now. Think of this as a time to attend Eucharistic Adoration with greater frequency, to frequent Eucharistic Benediction and other devotions. St. Paul commands that we walk in the light, and there is no light brighter than the Holy Eucharist.
When we partake of the Eucharist, we participate in a special way the "festal season of our redemption.” (PostCommunion) While we wait with eager hope and expectation the coming of Emmanuel, let us never forget that due to His love, Emmanuel is waiting for us in the tabernacle, waiting for us to rise up and go towards him “with heads raised.”
Editor’s note: Each week for Advent we shall be exploring the propers of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy. We hope that reflecting on these ancient readings will help you to better reflect during this holy season. Check in every Thursday.
Advent series of articles ping!
God bless and keep you.
Thanks for the bump.
A Recipe for Readiness – A Sermon for the Frist Sunday of Advent
Advent Series: A Look at the Infancy Narratives of Matthew and Luke [Ecumenical]
Following the Truth: Avoiding Advent Pitfalls
The Awkwardness of Advent
Cloistered Benedictines top charts with Advent album
Advent: Jesus is Coming!
Why Do Catholics Celebrate Advent? The Call to Begin Again (Ecumenical Caucus)
Resources for Liturgy and Prayer for the Seasons of Advent and Christmas [Catholic Caucus]
New prayers for Advent season [Catholic Caucus[ (Read and Rejoice!)
Father Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Homily, "The Christian Response to Rationalism"
Father Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Sermon, "The Christian Response to Secularism"
Evangelization Needs Belief in Eternity, Says Preacher, Father Cantalamessa Gives Advent Sermon to Pope and Curia
Father Corapi: How Do We Prepare Well for the Coming of the Lord
Father Cantalamessa's 1st Advent Sermon: "The Christian Answer to Atheist Scientism"
A Simple Way to Pray around the Advent Wreath: Prayers for Every Day During Advent
Advent 2010 -- Day by Day
History, Customs and Folklore of Advent [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Ready or Not: Here Advent Comes
The Journey To Bethlehem is Not Comfortable! (Last week of Advent)
Humble Praise and Joyful Anticipation: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Celebrating Advent in a Culture of Fear
Grave of the Craving (Do We Embrace our Dependence on God during Advent?)
Advent -- A Season of Hope
A New Holiday Tradition -- Construct a Jesse Tree with your family during Advent
Pope on Advent: With Jesus, there is no life without meaning
Advent: Awaiting God's Justice -- Pope Benedict XVI
St. Andrew: Lighting the way for Advent
Advent Reflections for 2008
Bringing our fallen-away relations back to Church during Advent
History and Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
Rediscovering Advent in the (St.) Nick of Time
Catholic Traditions for Advent and Christmas
Mary's Gift of Self Points the Way, "The Blessed Mother and Advent", Part 1 of 4
The Perfect Faith of the Blessed Virgin "The Blessed Mother and Advent", Part 2 of 4
Theotokos sums up all that Mary is: "The Blessed Mother and Advent", Part 3 of 4
Reclaiming the Mystery of Advent, Part One: The Meaning of Advent
Renewing the Mystery of Advent, Part Two: The Witness of John the Baptist
Why “Gaudete?”, Part Three (Third Sunday of Advent)
Sunday before Nativity
Holy Mary and the Death of Sin - "The Blessed Mother and Advent", Part 4 of 4
Catholic Liturgy - Rose-Colored Vestments on Gaudete Sunday
Advent through Christmas -- 2007
Immaculate Conception Novena -- starts November 30th [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Advent 2007 -- Day by Day
Making Advent a Reality (the seasons are out of whack)
The Advent Workshop -- lots of information and activities
Jesse Trees (genealogy of Jesus activity for families)
Advent Wreath & Candles (Prayers for the Family)
Reclaiming the Mystery of Advent, Part One: The Meaning of Advent
Celebrating Christ’s Advent [Archbishop Raymond Burke]
Praying through Advent -- 2006
The Paradox of Advent
Experience the Joy of Advent
Advent: the Reason for the Season
The Advent Wreath
Advent Activity - The Jesse Tree
That incredible shrinking Advent-Christmas season (Christmas should start, not end, Dec. 25)
Advent Thoughts: Some of the Church Fathers on the Divinity of Christ
The Relationship Between Advent and the Change in the Seasons (Dom Guéranger)
Thank-you for the explanation of why the penance during Advent. For most of my life I had question that. I viewed Advent more as a season to prepare for what I called the 3 comings of Christ, His birth, His coming in our lives every day, and His great coming at the end of the age. I had viewed Lent as the real season of penance.
But now, with the longer nights and the shorter days, which often make me so very tired, I have a much better understanding.
Every year, we resolve to have a peaceful, meaningful Advent in our household yet every year it somehow sneaks up on us.
The culture doesnt help: According to the retail-store calendar, the Christmas season began in mid-September.
By the time Christmas Day actually rolls around, it feels like a conclusion rather than a beginning.
We as a society have it completely backward: In our impatient, instant-gratification culture, the idea of being patient and anticipating a big event can seem beyond us.
But we must persevere. So many valuable lessons are lost when we ignore the liturgical seasons and dive into Christmas music in November. The Church actually teaches that learning to wait is important for the future moral life of our kids: Chastity cannot exist as a virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices and to wait (Pontifical Council for the Familys Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 5).
Remember that its never too late to start creating some Advent traditions, and any effort is worthwhile.
Here are some tried-and-true ideas for reclaiming the Advent and Christmas seasons in your family:
Deck the halls with lots of purple. When you put up all your wreaths and greenery on doors and windows, hold on to your red Christmas bows and invest in some purple ribbon instead. This can set the tone for the whole Advent season: that its something special and different from Christmas. Switch out the purple bows on Christmas Eve. What a witness to the whole neighborhood!
Pray a new prayer. Advent is the perfect time to introduce new prayers to your household. Novenas are wonderful family prayers, because once you start, everyone is invested in praying every day. This year, well be praying the Novena to Our Lady of the New Advent, which begins on Dec. 16. Learn more about this newer devotion by googling the title. Be sure to note the beautiful icon of this image, which shows Christ in utero.
Stake out family time. Christmas celebrates the Holy Family; honor them by scheduling time together as a family. For example, plan a family movie night and pop in Its A Wonderful Life. Make this life-affirming movie mandatory viewing for all of your kids.
Celebrate the birthday of Baby Jesus. In our house, we make a birthday cake for Jesus as part of Christmas dinner, and, yes, you can light candles and sing Happy Birthday. Other families we know sing the song in the morning before opening presents. Still others have a crèche inside and make a big deal of placing Baby Jesus in the crib that morning.
Be Web-savvy. Explore Catholic websites for more ideas. Our personal favorites are CatholicCusine.blogspot.com and the Advent and Christmas workshops at CatholicCulture.org. Find one or two new ideas that will work for your family and make those part of your Christmas preparation.
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