Advent is a Latin word for ‘coming’. It is a time of anticipation and waiting, mostly waiting with our Blessed Mother in her personal Advent of carrying Jesus in her womb for 9 months. But there is another thing we are anticipating: the return of the Lord. The time is approaching fast; this is the reason we wear rose (no, they are not pink) vestments this weekend. This is reflected in nature as well, as Dr Pius Parsch reflects on in The Year of Grace. He writes: ‘Nature’s annual cycle is characterized by two phenomena, light and life. Out of the darkness comes light, out of death comes life. The translation from night to light characterizes the winter season; the transition from death to life is proper to summertime. The holy year of the church is likewise divided into two phases which have similar characteristics.’
Violet calls to mind the diminishing light during Advent and the silence of life in the winter preparing for a new birth in the spring. Black is not a liturgical color, because black is the absence of all color, and we are never in complete darkness. Violet is a dark and penitential color, but it is also the ancient color for royalty and wealth. Through our baptism, we are immersed in light and life, and have the dignity of being children of the King of Heaven.
In this sense, we see the significance of the color rose, a softening of violet, the promise of the light that is approaching, anticipating the birth of Christ during Advent and his resurrection during Lent. Gaudete Sunday is an anticipation and foretaste of the good things to come, things that we experience partially today and confident that we will experience them fully when Christ returns.
The focus of our readings during the first 3 weeks of Advent is on the end times. Since the time of Christ, this has been on the minds of Christians throughout the world. Many have tried to predict the exact date or at least the correct year of the Lord’s return. Thus far, none have been right. But one thing is certain: we are living in the end times. This has been true since Jesus’ Ascension into heaven.
‘When is Jesus coming back?’ is the wrong question. Are the readings from Revelation or the prophets to be taken literally or symbolically? Again, the wrong question. It is a waste of time to speculate about the when or where or looking for signs. These are distractions from what we should be doing: actually preparing our hearts for his return.
St Bernard teaches there are 3 comings of Christ. The first was fulfilled some 2000 plus years ago with his incarnation; this coming was cloaked in human flesh, and was hidden from many of his contemporaries. The 2nd will be his coming in glory, and there will be no such confusion. Lastly there is a third coming, and this is the one we live, as Christ is born in our hearts and minds. It is fulfilled in each heart throughout our lives, and this coming involves a birth as well. Like all births, there is pain involved and we are put to the test; as St John the Baptist puts it ‘He must increase, I must decrease’. This expectant birth does not just come about. We must prepare and plan for it. Much like a couple expecting a child, they want to prepare the home in the best way possible for the new arrival. This new arrival, whether it is the 1st or the 6th, will bring change into the life of the family. As we accept Christ into our lives, it will change us in ways we cannot imagine.
The Lord is Near: so how do we prepare for such an event? Just as The Light approaches, his light is reflected in our liturgies; the violet of the season approaches the white of Christmas morning, and appears as rose. We rejoice in the fullness of the Truth; Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, we rejoice in the promise of his return, and we rejoice now as he is born into our hearts today. We also prepare by calling others to faith in Christ, something all baptized Christians are called to do. As a beautiful way to evangelize this Christmas, consider inviting a neighbor, friend or family member to join you in celebrating Christmas and the birth of our savior at one of our Masses.
God blessings upon your families and loved ones this Advent season