Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

First Sunday of Advent - 1 December AD 2013

“[I]t is now the hour for us to rise from sleep:
for now our salvation is nearer than when we [first] believed.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of the Advent Wreath

Archbishop Humphreys' Advent 2013 Pastoral Letter

     Today is the First Sunday of Advent.  The Advent season lasts for as long as four weeks, and serves to prepare us for Christmas, much as Lent prepares us for Easter. In modern times the fasting and abstinence have been reduced to the Ember days and to the Vigil of Christmas, but we are urged to avoid the frivolities of life in order spend more time in prayer, spiritual reading, and pious meditation.  Cut back on the movies and the television, and the reading of fiction.  If you can do so, your Christmas celebration ought to come on or after Christmas, and not before it during Advent.  Just be aware of these things as you set your schedule for the next few weeks.

    Today is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year.  Most of you are probably aware that the Church makes use of the Sunday Masses and some of the more important Feast Day Masses to make us aware of the events in the Life of Jesus and Mary each year.  The four Sundays of Advent represent the four thousand years from the fall of Adam and Eve until the coming of the promised Redeemer.  A minor feast known as the “Expectancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary” fits the Annunciation into the season on December 18th. The Masses of the Christmas Season, From December 24th through February 2nd present the events of our Lord’s birth, circumcision, and presentation in the Temple.  These overlap a bit with the beginnings of His public life on December 13th and the Second Sunday after Epiphany—His Baptism in the Jordan River, and His first miracle at Cana of Galilee.

    Lent and Easter re-present various events in Our Lord’s public life, culminating with His entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper, Crucifixion and death, and finally His Resurrection from the dead.

    Forty days later, Ascension Thursday commemorates His Ascension into Heaven, and then the descent of the Holy Ghost on the fiftieth day, which we call Pentecost.

    The remaining Sundays after Pentecost give us greater insight into His public life.  The Sunday after All Saints day reminds us that we are called to honor Christ as our King; our chief legislator, ruler, and judge here on earth.  Finally the post-Pentecost season ends with Jesus’ prediction of the Last Days which we read last Sunday, the final Sunday after Pentecost.[2]

    The question, then is raised:  If the end of the Church’s year dealt with the end-times, why then do we hear about them again at the very beginning of the year?[3]  The answer is that the Church is anxious to call to mind the whole purpose for this continuous liturgical re-presentation of the life of Christ.  And the reason, of course, is that it is the way to make us realize the seriousness of the call to believe in Jesus Christ, to keep His Commandments, and to live in the sacramental life of grace.

    Technically, we can say that the end times are our “final cause” for being Catholics.  The knowledge that the world will end, but life will in some way go on, draws us like a magnet through the living of the Catholic Faith.

    Why are we Catholics?  Why do we attend Holy Mass?  Why do we pray?  Why do we perform works of mercy for those in need?  Clearly the answer is that in being familiar with the life of Christ we learn the great importance of worshipping the One True God, and of preparing for our own personal end in such a way that we will spend eternity with Him.

    Among the various religions, Christianity is rather unique in that its transcendent God entered into the history of the human beings whom He created.  Not only did He send His angels and His prophets, but He Himself visited His people in the Person of His only begotten Son.  The love of God for us is not some abstract thing.  It is so powerful that He reaches out to everyone in the world—individually—in order that they might receive Baptism and be incorporated in His Mystical Body on Earth.

    In tracing the life of His Son, the liturgical year sets forth His example for our imitation.  If we come to Mass each Sunday and Holy day, and seek to learn about the lives of Jesus and Mary, we will learn all of the things necessary for us to enter eternity when the end comes.  And that end will come for each and every one of us, whether or not the events described in the Gospel take place in our time or thousands of years from now.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the obvious fact the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin compliments the liturgical year.  The two supply material for meditation to each other, and the astute Catholic will attend Mass with an eye toward improving his understanding of the fifteen mysteries, and will say his Rosary with an eye toward a greater appreciation of the liturgical year.

    So plan now to make a good Advent, and a blessed Christmas—not just for now, but for eternity.  As Saint Paul told us this morning:

“[I]t is now the hour for us to rise from sleep:
for now our salvation is nearer than when we [first] believed.”



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