1st Sunday of Advent: Happy New Liturgical Year!December 1st, 2013
The word “advent” means “coming”. The Church teaches us that during Advent we wait for two comings of Christ: we prepare to celebrate Christmas, when Christ first came into the world; and, we wait for Christ’s second coming at the end of time. (See General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, Paragraph 39, from Documents on the Liturgy, 1963-1979, Conciliar, Papal and Curial Texts © 1982, ICEL.)
Advent begins at sundown the eve of the fourth Sunday before Christmas and concludes at sundown on Christmas Eve. The
First Sunday of Advent also heralds the beginning of the new Church Year, or Liturgical Year.
Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Violet, which expresses penance and/or waiting, is the primary liturgical color during this season. Rose, however, is the color for the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday.
As Catholic Christians, we are called to reject the secular, commercial culture of already celebrating Christmas, and to faithfully keep the season of Advent until sundown Christmas Eve, when the Christmas Season begins. We keep Advent in many ways in our homes: the family Advent Wreath, the Jesse Tree, the O Antiphons (December 17-23). We celebrate special Advent Feast Days, such as the feast of Saint Nicholas (December 6), the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8*; *transferred to December 9, 2013), the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), and the feast of St. Lucy (December 13).
It is only in keeping Advent and not rushing the Christmas Season that we will be ready for the Lord when He comes!
On this first Sunday of Advent, make an Advent Wreath for your home. Gather some fresh evergreen trimming, four candles (three violet and one rose colored), and an Advent Wreath ring/form. Visit your local Catholic Supply store or hobby/craft shop to purchase the wreath ring and candles. You can also purchase wreath rings and candles on line from sources such as Autom. (Autom sells these items in packs of six, not individually.)
You can also use other items to decorate your Advent Wreath. For example, I tie violet and rose ribbons around the base of each candle in my wreath. Triple Oaks Nursery has some interesting suggestions as to fresh herbs to add to your wreath, full of symbolism.
Once your wreath is assembled, celebrate a Blessing of your Advent Wreath and light the first violet candle.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a wonderful Advent hymn to sing as you light your Advent Wreath each day of Advent. You can download the words and music to this hymn here.
Did you know you can access the Scripture readings assigned to every day of the Church Year at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site? Click here.
Another family project for today could be making an Advent calendar. Advent calendars and Advent houses let you count down the days until Christmas Day. This page contains a template from the Ohio Department of Education, and here you can find one from Kodak. But instead of having treats or surprises for children for each day, create your Advent calendar/house so that the children are also opening each window or door to find either a reference to a Scripture passage they can read (or you can read to them), or a suggestion for a good deed they can do today.
There are numerous sources for Advent calendars, if you choose to purchase one. Choose one with a religious theme, rather than a secular theme. Liturgy Training Publications has a fantastic Advent/Christmas Calendar that begins the First Sunday of Advent and continues through the Christmas Season, as well. A prayer book for each day accompanies your purchase. This is a wonderful addition to your home and/or classroom.
Begin to prepare a manger for Jesus today, too. Put up your empty “stable” in your home or classroom. For every good deed done between now and December 24, put a piece of straw in the stable so that on Christmas, you will have a place prepared for the Christ Child.