“See the Name of the Lord comes from afar. His splendour fills the whole world”
(Magnificat antiphon for Evening Prayer I of the first Sunday of Advent)
As we enter the Season of Advent today – or, more correctly, at dusk yesterday evening, with Evening Prayer I – we also begin a new liturgical year. Everything in the Liturgy now points toward the future, to the Lord who comes. At the immediate level, we look forward to His birth at Christmas; but at the broader level, we are really looking further into the future, to the great coming of the Lord in glory.
All of this is represented visually today in the lighting of the first candle on the Advent Wreath. The Mass readings all focus on the theme of ‘staying awake’, in readiness for the coming of the Master. And in the Divine Office, the Psalms, the Canticles and the antiphons all express a very beautiful sense of anticipation for the imminence of the Lord Who comes.
At a Vigil the other evening in preparation for Advent, this theme of readiness was very much in evidence; as it was an all-night Vigil, there was also a literal sense to the ‘staying awake’ theme. But for those who remained with the Lord all night long, keeping the hours in His Presence, I am sure this was a time of great mercy and grace. After a beautiful Mass to focus us on this theme of readiness and waiting, there were Priests available for Confession, and then the Rosary hourly and the Divine Mercy chaplet. It was a moment of divine grace.
This is a beautiful Season, one we would do well to make the most of, even though there may be a temptation to ‘get through it’ and reach Christmas; but that will come soon enough and this is the time of preparation for it.
At this point in the liturgical year, there tends to a be a greater emphasis on (and availability of) the Sacrament of Reconciliation – whether in Vigils such as the one mentioned above, or in the presence of visiting Priests at services of reconciliation as a preparation for Christmas.
This is one very real way of ‘staying awake’ and of being ready for the coming of the Lord at an hour we do not know, as the liturgy reminded us only this morning – “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come” (Mk.13:33). This beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation is available to all souls as often as needed and we would do well to avail ourselves of it – and not only at this time, but throughout the year.
May the Lord of all mercy and grace, Who calls us to respond to His invitation to us, help us to move ever closer to Him in a special way during this Season of Advent; and may we have the courage and confidence to do so, that we might be ready when He calls.
“Grant, almighty Father, that when Christ comes again we may go out to meet Him, bearing the harvest of good works achieved by Your grace. We pray that He will receive us into the company of the Saints and call us into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
(Concluding Prayer for Evening Prayer II of the first Sunday of Advent)