Latin, ad + venio = to come to
…stay awake…for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
- Matthew 24:42
The Lord is coming. St. Paul tells us that “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” This is true even in a literal sense. As Dr. Tom Curran shared with us last Saturday, Advent is a time when days are getting darker and colder as the winter solstice approaches. (‘Solstice’ “is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun's path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.” From Wikipedia) The Church chose this time, the winter solstice, the turning of the tide, to celebrate the Birth of Christ, the birth of the One who called Himself the Light of the World.
There is a beautiful history of the dating of Christmas at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm. The best evidence that points to late December as the timing of Christ’s birth is related to the annunciation of John the Baptist’s conception to Zachariah, which occurred on the Day of Atonement, which falls in September. According to Scripture (Luke 1:36), the Annunciation of Christ’s conception comes 6 months later, which would be in March (celebrated March 25). Add nine months to this date and we have the date of Christmas. This does not mean that the Church depends on historical accuracy. The Church depends on mystical accuracy. In other words, when the Church enters into a mystery of Christ, such as His Nativity, it enters into a mystery that is primarily outside of time. The physical manifestation of a Divine reality is the tip of the iceberg, transcended by an infinitely large mystery under the surface.
In preparation for such Light coming into the world, the Church gradually developed a time of penance and prayer that helps one to appreciate the Incarnation. The goals of Advent for the faithful are:
to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
thus to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
thereby to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.
Let us prepare our souls today, even in this moment, to receive all the love that God has for us.
Preparing for Mass
There is no better way to grow in the grace of God than to worthily prepare for and pray the Mass. Here is a short prayer, written by Blessed Dom Marmion for priests, but adaptable for the laity who are called to exercise the priesthood of all believers by offering the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to the Father for the sins of the whole world. Let us all become worthy worshipers, in spirit and in truth.
Lord, you have declared that sine me nihil potestis facere (Jn 15:5). I realize it; without You I can do nothing, and especially in this divine action of the Holy Sacrifice. I am quite incapable of being a worthy minister for You in this act of incomparable grandeur. Were I to pass my whole life in preparation I would not be fit for such a ministry. But as I have received, through Your Holy Spirit, a participation in Your priesthood, I ask in all humility, that You communicate to me Your disposition as Pontiff and as Victim; the dispositions which were Yours at the Last Supper and those which You had on the Cross; graciously supply in Your mercy all that is wanting in me.
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