Let Us Not Forget Poor Advent
The following guest post was written by frequent contributor Fr. Donald Kloster, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
We are now in the second week of Advent. Our attention in the liturgy stays focused on the Second Coming of the Lord through December 16th. During this time we should be constantly reminding ourselves of the absence of Christ even in the midst of an invasion of decorations that began to appear as far back as October.
Christ is not born today. Christ was not born in late November or even in early December. Christ has a birthday and every faithful Catholic is familiar with the date of December 25th.
The Church has almost always observed a 20 day season of Christmas December 25th – January 13. We have the 12 days of Christmas and the 8 day Octave of the Epiphany. There used to be a widespread celebration of Christmas parties within that 20 day period. Then too, there had been many 12th night parties on the 5th of January, which is the eve of the Epiphany.
In fact, the ancient Jewish traditions teach us that the great feast days were always preceded by days of fasting and penances. The violet of Advent is no mere accretion. The colors of Advent are not red or green. Why the liturgical schizophrenia?
My observation is that our culture has been conditioned to want what it wants, when it wants it. There are very few appeals any more to a higher authority. Personal authority now trumps everything else and thus there is an anarchy of desire; a greed of self adoration. Christmas is whenever I want to celebrate it and any sniff of penance is treated as a stale crumb under the table.
The proper observance of Advent submerges itself in the Prophesy of Isaiah and from the Psalms. They give eloquent expression to the longing of a nation who is looking toward the East for their Redeemer. They are subjects not of the commercial frenzy of buying and selling. They engage in a joyful and prayerful preparation to renew the annual observance of the gathering of the shepherds at a grotto near the Migdal Edar or the Flock Tower. This tower looked over the choicest pasture land for the best sheep to be sacrificed in the Temple. These faithful are not fooled by the distractions of an early secularized “Christmas” (worse still “Happy Holidays”) that all but dissipates during the authentic Christmas Season.
Advent has become a largely abandoned Season precisely because so many of our Church leaders are duped by the slow boil of the “pastoral” modern stance which has run rough shod over nearly every traditional societal and liturgical norm.
So many long practiced familial Christmas preparations have disappeared that the average individual is left with merely a generic respite from work. That Christmas Day is a Federal Holiday is just a happy coincidence and not a cause for wonder and adoration of the God-man. There need be no lead up to Christmas since it may be manufactured at one’s leisure.
The etymology of the word Advent is a coming or an arrival in the future tense. Advent observed in the Greek Church celebrates particularly the ancestors of Our Lord, especially Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Roman Church too celebrates the Prophets and the Patriarchs with an added emphasis on St. John the Baptist. That St. John the Baptist is such a prominent Advent figure should give us pause. He was very clear in deflecting the Adoration and Glory to his more important Cousin. Those that wanted to jump the gun and crown him the savior were as misguided as the revelers within an early Christmas.
Good things do come to those who wait. When the Star appeared over the manger all of creation knew that the Savior was born. The Incarnation was not early and nor was it late, He was perfectly on time.
We do well to remain docile to God’s ensconced liturgical Seasons. May the purple hue of Advent regain its rightful observance in the hearts of all men.