Living in the northern hemisphere for over a year, I was able to experience Advent and Christmas in the darkness and cold of a European winter. The electric Christmas decorations strung across streets busy with shoppers lit up the dark sky. Similarly, the Advent Wreath candles lit up the dimly lit church each Sunday as the countdown to Christmas ticked by. Each Sunday another candle offered more light as the assembly awaited the coming of the greatest light, the coming of our Saviour in the event of the Incarnation. Candles don’t work so well in the southern hemisphere which has sunlight blazing in extended hours of daylight in the heat of Australia. Consequently, as the weather heats up in Australia I try to re-focus on what is happening in the liturgy.
A new liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent and with it a time for us to prepare for the coming of our Lord wrapped in swaddling clothes. Advent also provides the opportunity for us to prepare for Christ in His Second Coming at the end of time. Advent means “Coming” and these two events or “comings” offer us a time of expectant joy as we wait. Waiting for something we long for can be difficult and requires discipline; the use of Advent calendars in our homes and the lighting of Advent candles each Sunday demonstrates that we cannot rush God’s plan, we can only prepare.
Although Advent is a joyful season, because of its meditative and expectant flavour we do not use the Gloria and our senses are tempered with moderation in flowers (GIRM 305). Similarly, use of the organ and musical instruments is moderated in Advent (GIRM 313). When our senses are disciplined, we will be able to enjoy the feast of Christmas so much more with the return of the Gloria and jubilant music. Advent Penitential services assist to prepare the community for what is to come and offer an oasis of calm in what has in society become known as “the silly season”.
Year A brings us the Gospel of Matthew for Sundays whilst we move into Cycle 2 for the Weekday Lectionary. The Sunday Readings will tell of the great characters of our faith story: Isaiah prophesying about the coming of the Messiah, Noah and Abraham, John the Baptist, Jesus; Mary and Joseph and the Angel of the Lord who comes to Joseph in a dream. May you experience the dignified joy of Advent.
Ms Sharon Boyd, MA, GCHE.
Professional Specialist-Liturgy Education
ACU Centre for Liturgy