Before even recovering from the Thanksgiving busy-ness, Advent season is upon us! Advent invites us to pay attention to the special music, prayers, reflections and church environment calling us to slow down and ponder this epoch-making event in history – the birth of Christ. Though a very special time for spiritual preparation for Christmas, Advent can pass us by as we get lost in the bright lights and hectic holiday rush. So, what should we do, not to lose the fruits of this important season?
One way to be living the spirit of Advent is to have some Advent devotion. A daily short reflection on an advent theme or Scripture will help us tremendously. Many resources are available online. A few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to read that the LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention published Advent devotional books. According to Stan Norman, a Church historian and provost of Oklahoma Baptist University, Baptists have begun to see the usefulness of traditions once viewed as too liturgical or high church as these practices “seem to provide a bit of structure in a tradition that has maybe gone too far without structure.” This shift is also seen with other Christian Churches that have begun to offer tips about having Advent wreaths, candles and calendars for observing this holy season.
The popular and traditional practice of Advent wreath reminds us certain aspects of this sacred season. There are various explanations for each candle on the evergreen. Here’s how one tradition thinks of the four candles: The first purple candle is called ‘Prophecy Candle’ in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ (Isaiah 7:14). This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah. The second purple candle is the ‘Bethlehem Candle’ symbolizing the manger of Baby Jesus (Luke 2:12) representing love. The pink or rose-colored candle on the third Sunday is the ‘Shepherd’s Candle,’ symbolizing joy (Luke 2:8-11). The fourth candle, purple in color, is the ‘Angel’s Candle,’ representing peace (Luke 2:13-14). Here at St. Matthias, a family or an individual from our community will light these candles at each of our weekend Masses. Let us take to heart its meaning and symbolism and live them.
But there is another excellent practice that is often overlooked or taken lightly: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Advent and Lent are traditional liturgical seasons when Catholics make an extra effort to cleanse their souls. A good confession can be one of the best ways to welcome the Lord Jesus into our hearts and thus enter into the joy of Christmas. Both of us priests plan to be available for confessions during the whole season of Advent: weekdays after the 8 am Mass, and Saturdays from 3:00 – 4:30 pm. If these times are not convenient, you can call any of us and make an appointment. I would encourage you to plan early to take advantage of this Sacrament that brings so much peace of heart.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal