Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday in Advent

Readings for December 29, 2009, First Sunday in Advent:

1st Sunday of Advent 2009

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
November 29, 2009

Advent developed in the Middle Ages by an analogy with Lent. In some places, Advent was a forty-day period much like Lent. Advent began on Nov. 11th and sometimes was called "St. Martin's Fast." After some time Advent became the four Sunday period of time as we know it in the Western Church.

The Church, it seems, never really determined what Advent should be. Should it be penitential? Should it be joyful? There seems that there is no mention of a penitential character of a likeness to Lent in the liturgical documents, concerning Advent. Nevertheless, violet vestments are worn, and the Gloria is not used. Flowers are not permitted in Church except on Gaudete Sunday. I read too, that musical instruments are to be used sparingly. I suppose that means no Pokka Masses. This shouldn't seem to me to be new revelation, but it shows how much can be forgotten over the course of the year.

The Norms for the Celebration of the Church Year states: Advent has a two-fold character: As a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. You will remember how Father covered the Four Last Things the last four weeks or so and you probably thought that would be the end of that for a while, but here the first Sunday of the Church year and we hear of looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ, at the end of time. So Advent is to be a period for devout and joyful expectation.

The message of this First Sunday of Advent is; Prepare for the glorious Coming of the Lord. The Focus is on the Parousia. The first reading is from Jeremiah. It is one of the few joyful sections of Jeremiah.

Today's selection recalls the prophecy made by Nathan that the dynasty of David would last forever. This promise was handed down in Hebrew tradition even though it contradicted the experience of the people: Most of the kings after David were corrupt, immoral, and/or worthless. Yet the hope is handed down: A righteous ruler would come from David's line.

The first book of the New Testament to be written was 1st Thessalonians, written about the year 51. Remember that an important part of the "Good News" of the primitive Church was the hope of and imminent Second Coming of Christ.

Some of the Thessalonians had died. The living wondered whether the deceased would rise, first (when the Lord returned in glory) or whether the living would be glorified first. They were beginning to worry about when the Parousia would happen.

Paul tells the Thessalonians that the dead will rise, first, then the living will be glorified, then all will be caught up into Christ. Today, however, he simply exhorts the people to have faith and to show it in their lives by virtuous living.

The Gospel relates several catastrophes which would be "signs" of the end. Elsewhere in the Gospels, the message is that the generation alive at the time of Jesus would not pass away "until all these things are accomplished." In other words, we don't look for any new "signs," for they have already happened.

What remains is for us to watch and to pray and never give into laziness (of Faith) or to anxieties of carousing. The end will come suddenly, when we least expect it. Therefore, we should be vigilant at all times. For us, this means "stay in a state of grace" Never give in to sin. Be aware that each day may be your last. That should not be depressing for a Christian, for we look for a glorious life with Christ after we leave this world. Father Groeschel would say, "We're waiting already!"

Hope for a Christian is not for this world. We hope for and work for a just economic system, for the dignity of all peoples, for peace, for and end to evil and violence., But while we zealously work to make this a better world, our real hope must be focused on the world to come, on our Eternal Life. All things must be seen in that context. And all our anxieties and sufferings must be seen as a share in the cross of Christ, which will inevitably lead to a CROWN of GLORY.

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