TODAY is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the name of the liturgical season during which the Church teaches and encourages us to prepare our hearts, souls and bodies for the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace, our savior, through whom we too become children of God, attain true personal peace and joy–not mere animal happiness.
Most liberal Catholics, which means the majority of those who form 90 percent of the Filipino population, don’t bother with the proper observance of the liturgical seasons—except perhaps Lent. They don’t really care what Advent is, when it begins and ends. Advent begins, as today, on the Sunday nearest November 30, which is the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle, the brother of St. Peter. And it ends exactly on Christmas Eve, December 24, before the Christmas Midnight Mass, which is the first to celebrate the Nativity, begins. That Advent ends at this point shows how important it is.
Advent is not only an important tradition for Roman Catholics. It is also observed by Independent Filipino Catholics (Aglipayans), Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Presbyterians and Methodists—plus other Protestant traditions.
Here are some inspiring quotations about Advent from St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of the Church prelature, Opus Dei:
The ‘enemies of the soul’
Today marks the beginning of Advent. And it is good for us to consider the wiles of these enemies of the soul: the disorder of sensuality and easygoing superficiality, the folly of reason that rejects God, the cavalier presumption that snuffs out love for both God and creatures. All these obstacles are real enough, and they can indeed cause us a great deal of trouble. For these very reasons the liturgy invites us to implore divine mercy: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust, let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me,” as we prayed in the Introit. And in the Offertory we shall go back to the same idea: “Let none that wait for you be put to shame.”
Now that the time of our salvation is approaching, it is consoling to hear from the lips of St Paul that “when the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
[Christ Is Passing By, 7]
“Look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand (Lk 21:28),” we have just read in the Gospel. This time of Advent is a time for hope. These great horizons of our Christian vocation, this unity of life built on the presence of God our Father, can and ought to be a daily reality.
I don’t wish to go on any longer on this first Sunday of Advent, when we begin to count the days separating us from the birth of the Savior. We have considered the reality of our Christian vocation: how our Lord has entrusted us with the mission of attracting other souls to sanctity, encouraging them to get close to him, to feel united to the Church, to extend the kingdom of God to all hearts. Jesus wants to see us dedicated, faithful, responsive. He wants us to love him. It is his desire that we be holy, very much his own.
[Christ Is Passing By, 11]
How to listen to God
If we turn to Sacred Scripture we will see that humility is absolutely necessary when we are making ready to listen to God. “Where there is humility, there is wisdom,” says the book of Proverbs. Humility means looking at ourselves as we really are, honestly and without excuses. And when we realize that we are worth hardly anything, we can then open ourselves to God’s greatness: it is there our greatness lies.
How well Our Lady, Jesus’ Holy Mother, understood this! She, the most exalted of all God’s creatures that have existed or ever will exist upon this earth! Mary glorifies the power of Our Lord, who “has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly.” And she sings of how his divine providence has once again been fulfilled in her: “Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid, behold henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Mary becomes transformed in holiness in the depths of her most pure heart on seeing the humility of God: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; and therefore the Holy One to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” The Blessed Virgin’s humility is a consequence of that unfathomable depth of grace which comes into operation with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in the womb of his ever Immaculate Mother. [Friends of God, 96]