Because We’re Catholic and It’s Advent


Regardless of what major retailers and the secular culture may be telling you, ’tis not the season of Christmas…yet. It is not time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, and if you happen to find yourself driving past a Christmas tree lot, fight the urge to pull over. Instead, dare to be counter-cultural. Why? Because we are Catholic and it is Advent.

Advent comes from the Latin “ad-venire”, which means “to come to”. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website explains:

“Beginning the Church’s liturgical year, Advent is the season leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas.”

In The Liturgical Year ,19th century Benedictine abbot and liturgist Dom Prosper Gueranger quotes St. Bernard when he writes:

“In the first coming He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.” (Fifth sermon for Advent).

Indeed, Advent is a penitential season which is why the liturgical color selected by Holy Mother Church is purple. In preparation for the coming of the Christ we must not avoid introspection, but instead should undertake serious reflection. Penance, abstinence and fasting are all means by which we can more appropriately enter into the season at hand. Once again, the U.S. bishops:

“Changing customs, especially in connection with preparation for Christmas, have diminished popular appreciation of the Advent season. Something of a holiday mood of Christmas appears now to be anticipated in the days of the Advent season. As a result, this season has unfortunately lost in great measure the role of penitential preparation for Christmas that it once had.” (Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1966).

As Catholics, what can we do in the face of our increasingly materialistic and highly secularized culture?

First, do not feel the need to go along to get along. Just because everyone else is doing it is not an excuse. This is the beginning of the new liturgical year for the Church, and not simply the biggest shopping season of the year. It is also not mandatory that you decorate your house early simply because friends, family and neighbors are doing so. Dare to be counter-cultural, because we’re Catholic and it’s Advent.

Second, begin the season of Advent with a sincere and exhaustive Examination of Conscience and then go to Confession. This is a time to prepare yourself for the coming of the Lord.

Third, give up something for Advent just as you would for Lent. This can be difficult during the season as many others are already celebrating with parties, exchanges, candy and more. Little sacrifices and penances, however, are excellent ways to help us grow in virtue and holiness.

Finally, there are a multitude of great devotions and practices that you and your family can incorporate to prepare yourselves, such as: an Advent wreath, the blessing of your Christmas Tree; an Advent calendar, the “O” Antiphons of Advent and finally, the Jesse Tree with readings and ornaments. In the beautiful and anticipatory words of the classic seasonal hymn:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Posted on December 1, 2013, in holiness, life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It is difficult to not get swept away by the culture but our family will be turning off the radio and turning on our Advent at Ephesus CD. We’ll put up our Christmas decorations on the 24th and keep them up until the 2nd of February. We will be using a Jesse Tree and giving up something while doing some fasting. It is our first year doing it and the pressure is already on from family members who find it “weird” that we don’t start celebrating Christmas until Christmas is actually here. But as the saying goes “no pain, no gain”.

  2. We can’t get Catholics to move or speak on any subject of actual importance, but like Cromwellian Puritans, we can all get together and ban Christmas?

    I despise the materialist aspect of it all. But banning it and simply throwing the calendar topsy-turvy? Is there even any actual Church tradition backing this up or are we making this up as we go along?

    I don’t think your intentions are ill-placed, but I’m just saying: -banning Christmas-? This is a bit of a shock.

    • No one suggested banning anything, Kaiser.. Next time, try this:

      1. Read the article.
      2. Comment intelligently sans hyperbole on said article.

      • Thank you Jeff. You are absolutely correct. The article is about celebrating the liturgical season of Advent during Advent, and Christmas during the season of Christmas. God bless and may you and your family have a blessed Advent 2013!

  3. Reblogged this on Corey :: "A College Seminarian's website about a little bit of everything…" and commented:
    Great thought on why we as Catholics are called to be counter-cultural!

  4. First of all, be careful with what you say. In the Philippines, the Christmas spirit is so strong, that it starts with Christmas music playing as early as SEPTEMBER 1st and ends early January. Do not mess with the way we celebrate Christmas, it’s not a sin to get Christmassy before Christmas day. In the Filipino culture, we celebrate nine evening or dawn masses from December 16th to the 24th in anticipation of Christmas. These masses are known as “Simbang Gabi”. Because Simbang Gabi is celebrated in anticipation of Christmas, it’s not treated like an ordinary Advent mass. These masses are festive. The Gloria and Christmas carols are sung, white vestments are worn by the clergy instead of violet and the sanctuary is festively decorated. Simbang Gabi is an ancient Filipino tradition that is approved by the Vatican and has spread all over the world. Someone might tell you that Simbang Gabi should be treated like an ordinary Advent mass, but those people don’t understand what Simbang Gabi is all about. If you are confused, I would suggest reading this:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: