By: Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
The teacher informed her students that there were four weeks before Christmas. This was the time we called Advent. It was a time of waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ. It was a time to practice loving-kindness. A little boy jumped up and said, “Well, if I was hungry and someone gave me a piece of bread – that would be kindness. But if they put a little jam on it, that would be loving-kindness.
We who believe in the Most Holy Trinity believe that the Father sent His Son, Jesus to earth to redeem us from our sins. There happened to be a professor, teaching a college class who was a professed atheist. He told his students that he was going to prove that there was no God. Raising his eyes heavenward he shouted, “God if you are real, I dare you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you 15 minutes!”
Ten minutes went by. Nothing happened. So, shouted louder. “Here I am, God; I am still waiting.” He got down to the last couple of minutes when a muscular football player, all 240 pounds, happened to walk past the classroom door. He heard the professor shouting – “Here I am God, knock me off this platform.” The football player never cared for that professor. So, he stepped into the classroom approached the platform and threw a punch into the professor’s mid-section.
The professor went sprawling across the floor. Totally stunned, he looked up at the football player, saying, “Where did you come from, and why did you do that?” The football player calmly replied, “God was busy; He sent me!”
We don’t know how busy God was, but we do know that He did not send a husky football player to handle the redemption of sin. Rather, He send His Son, Jesus Christ.
We are beginning the season of Advent. This is a season of waiting, waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time of anticipation. The excitement mounts as we decorate our homes, play Christmas music and buy presents for our loved ones. In our liturgical celebrations, our attention centers upon a theme of expectation.
For centuries the Jewish people waited for a Messiah. They were a people filled with expectation. During Advent, we too attempt to capture that expectant feeling as we look forward to the coming of Christ.
We use many symbols during this season to portray our waiting. We use an Advent wreath with four candles, representing the four weeks of Advent. In making an Advent wreath we use evergreen branches. We place them in a circle with four candles. Three of the candles are purple, one is rose.
The circle reminds us that the beginning and end of our journey is God. Like the Celtic interlace, there is no beginning and no ending. The interlace weaves above and below. It is the circle of life and the circle of love. The evergreens represent the unchanging love of God. The four candles represent the four stages of our Advent journey. The second candle represents the time of transition when all seems dark and we feel like we are making little progress. The third candle portrays the stirring of joy when we realize that we are approaching our destination. And the fourth candle reminds us that we have nearly arrived.
There are three purple candles and one rose candle. The purple candles remind us of Christ’s royal dignity or our need for changing our lives as we wait, watch and prepare to meet our King. The rose or pink candle reminds of our the joy as we are well on our way in our Advent journey.
Each week we light an additional candle. This reminds us of the way Jesus changed the darkness of hatred and evil into the light of joy and love.
An advent wreath in the home will often shed calmness over the adults and children. A candle’s glow eases tension. At Christmas time children and grandchildren become quite anxious. With the electric lights turned off at dinner time, the lighting of an Advent wreath will bring a calming effect upon everyone. We gaze into the glow of the candle. We feel the warmth and see the beauty in the flickering flames. We anxiously await the birth of Christ.
Every week many people gather in St. Gerard chapel to spend an hour in prayer. This is called a Holy Hour. Sometimes we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed. We place the consecrated host, the Body of Christ, in a monstrance and place it upon the altar. Other times we just gather to pray privately, or read from a spiritual book, or say the rosary or just sit back and listem to God speak to us as he puts thoughts into our minds and hearts. We invite everyone to join us. Come spend some time with the Lord and let the Lord surprise you. He always does.
During the Christmas rush in a department store a little boy got lost. He stood in the aisle way calling for his mother. As sympathetic shoppers walked past the kid they handed him dimes, quarters,even dollar bills, hoping to pacify his cries.
Finally, a store clerk walked up to the little boy and said, “I know where your mommy is.” The little boy answered, “I know too. But don’t tell anybody…”
Have a blessed Advent.
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.