The meaning of the Advent season
“Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this Advent season, which is Christ himself, whom God our Father has revealed to the entire world. Where God is born, hope is born. where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.”
That’s the opening prayer of Pope Francis of the Catholic Church during the observance of Advent.
For Christians around the world, it’s now the season of Advent, a church tradition that has been observed for centuries. The celebration dates back to the fourth century.
From the Latin words “advenio” or “ad-venire,” or “adventus” meaning “coming” or “arrival,” Advent is the first season of the Christian church year, that includes the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It is observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting.
The dictionary defines advent as the arrival of a notable person, thing or event, while in Christian theology, Advent is the coming or second coming of Christ.
One of the favorite features of the season is the Advent wreath, distinctly displayed at the altar of Christian churches. Shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God, the Advent wreath of evergreen has four purple candles that represent the four weeks of the season of Advent. Each of the four candles symbolizes the four virtues that Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. To other Christian churches, the lighting of the first candle symbolizes expectation, while the second symbolizes hope, the third joy and the fourth purity.
In the middle of the Advent wreath is a large white candle that symbolizes Christ. This Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to remind Christians that Jesus is the light of the world.
Last Sunday, Christian churches worldwide, and those families at home having an Advent wreath, lighted the first candle on the Advent wreath to mark the first Sunday of Advent. (For safety reasons and practical purposes, after prayer, praise and worship services, the candle is extinguished.) For the second Sunday of Advent, another candle is lighted. Same for the third and fourth until all candles are lighted on the fourth Sunday until Christmas Day.
As a sacred season of hope and longing, waiting and anticipation, Advent offers an opportunity for spiritual preparation, growth and development as believers continue their journey towards a life of faith and hope, love and peace, and everlasting joy.
Despite all the hustle and bustle of the world and the busy schedule of your daily life, what can you do to prepare yourself during this season of Advent?
Daily prayer is one simple activity you can do. Going to church on Sundays to be with the faith community praising and worshiping God together is another. There is strength in numbers when many pray together for universal peace and unity.
Listening to God’s Good News, praying and reading materials that enrich your spiritual life, practicing acts of kindness, charity and generosity, and love towards others, especially the underserved and underprivileged in the community, sharing your time, talents and treasures to your church and to those in need; giving up of something (a material thing, perhaps) so that others can have it; clearing up the way in your life so that when He comes, you’re ready to welcome and receive Him with clean heart; giving thanks to God for all the blessings you have — faith, family, friends, food on the table; observing the Ten Commandments; asking forgiveness and reconciliation; and believing in the goodness and love of God by believing in Christ Jesus, our Messiah. These are just ideas you can do to observe the season of Advent.
A human rights lawyer and founder of Common Good (a movement dedicated to building a culture of life, family, freedom and solidarity), Deacon Keith Fournier of the Diocese of Richmond, suggests repenting your sins and renouncing your wrong choices by emptying yourselves of the clutter of daily idolatry and renouncing “the self-love that can so easily squeeze God’s grace out of our lives.”
One Christian writer said that Advent is a time for re-commitment to good, healthy habits — prayer, acts of charity and justice and a greater awareness of God’s presence in our daily lives.
“God alone can save us and free us from the many forms of evil and selfishness in our midst. Let us welcome into our lives God’s mercy, which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, so that we in turn can show mercy to our brothers and sisters. In this way, we will make peace grow,” wrote Pope Francis.
May your Advent season be filled with hope and healing, justice and peace, love and joy
Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at email@example.com.