Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
First Sunday of Advent—30 November AD 2014

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

Archbishop Humphreys' Advent 2014 Pastoral Letter


“Now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed…. Put on the armor of light.”[1]

    Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church’s new liturgical year.  When I speak of the “liturgical” year, I am referring to the fact that the Sundays and Holy days of the Church’s year re‑present the major events in the life of our Lord and Lady.  And, indeed, the Church invites us to be conscious of these events, in much the same way as She does in the mysteries of the Rosary.

    Quite fittingly, the Immaculate Conception is the first major feast of the new year—the holy Virgin was chosen from the beginning of time to be the spotless mother of the Savior of the human race.  On December 18th we will celebrate the “Expectancy of the Blessed Virgin,” which places the Annunciation in its proper order before the birth of Christ at Christmas, a week later.  The week after Christmas we commemorate our Lord’s circumcision, and then on February 2nd, His presentation in the Temple, so we learn that the Holy Family was obedient to the Law of Moses, in force at that time.  The Epiphany will commemorate our Lord’s manifestation to the Angels and Wise men, His Baptism in the Jordan, and His first miracle at Cana of Galilee.  From Epiphany on, we learn about our Lord’s public life, and ultimately about His Last Supper, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.

    So today, the Church invites us to embark on a journey that points out the most important events in our own spiritual life with Christ.

    Now, you may wonder why we begin this new year with a Gospel that describes the very end of time.[2]  Why begin with the end?  The answer to that goes back to the pagan Greek philosopher, Aristotle.  Aristotle knew, through the power of human reasoning, that there is God.  The fact that there is motion in the universe requires that there be a prime mover.  But with great insight, Aristotle wrote that God moved the universe by being its final cause—sort of pulling it to its ultimate end, rather than pushing it from its beginning.  (Saint Thomas suggests that God both pushes and pulls.[3])  Our Gospel, with its presentation of the last days, follows Aristotle’s suggestion—our Christian life is in many ways formed by our expectation of our final reward, the Beatific Vision of God in heaven.  So as we proceed through the coming year we should allow this final cause to set our priorities.  Nothing we do in life is worth anything if it causes us to lose that final glory.

    I should mention, too, that Advent has a penitential character to it.  You can tell that from the use of purple vestments, and the absence of the Glória in excélsis at Holy Mass.  Centuries ago, Advent was observed much as Lent—back in the days when Lent was properly observed.  People fasted and abstained, they did penance and they prayed.  We used to have the expression “a fast before a feast” and Advent and Lent were the great fasts before the great feasts, Christmas and Easter.

    The penitential character of Advent is difficult for us to recognize because we life in a predominantly Protestant culture, mixed with a secular, consumer oriented, culture.  From Thanksgiving day on, we are assaulted by Christmas music and urged to go out and spend all of our money on things for Christmas.  The public atmosphere is very much like Christmas is already here, and will end on December 26th, so we had better celebrate now while we have the opportunity (and a few dollars) left.

    It may not be completely possible to preserve the Catholic observance of Advent, but I urge you to try, as best as you can.  If you are going to have a Christmas party, be sure to schedule it on or after Christmas day.  Plan your other activities accordingly.  Maybe, even plan your menus to reflect the custom of fasting and abstinence.  The Catholic Christmas extends not just to January 1st, but beyond to Epiphany and Candlemas (February 2nd!)  Every event in our Lord’s life is important for us, so we must not stop our meditations with Christmas day.

    Recognize the importance of good works in addition to fasting and abstinence.  It would be scandalous for Catholics to “eat, drink and be merry” if people around us go homeless, hungry, and cold.  Advent is the time to put aside a few things for the poor and less fortunate.  Food, clothing, and a few toys could mean quite a lot to a family that cannot afford them.  And no family should be bitter about it being Christmas.

    “Now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.”  Saint Paul is echoing the idea that throughout our lives we are moving toward our final end.  No one here can be certain that this is not their last opportunity to live out the Church’s year with Christ.  “Cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.”  Make sure that your Advent is spent in holy things: with prayer and fasting, and prayer and abstinence, and prayer and good works.  Attend Holy Mass as often as you can.  Join us for the Friday evening holy hours.  Pray the Rosary every day.

“Put on the armor of light.”


[1]   Epistle:  Romans xiii::1114

[3]   Summa Theologica I Q. 44


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