26 Nov 2011

27th November 2011 - First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

On this weeks show we begin the Season of Advent with a short reflection on the meaning of the season, the traditions and customs associated with the beginning of the new liturgical year as well as a reflection on the gospel of the Sunday and a quick visit to the saints of the week.

This weeks podcast can be heard HERE.

Season of Advent

At the start of the new liturgical year we are switching cycles and moving to the gospel of Mark for the next few months. It is also the start of the season of Advent which is sometimes seen as a "weird little season" which is an appendage to Christmas. However, Advent is a season in its own right which we need to rediscover and explore.

[From Wikipedia] Advent comes from the latin adventus which in turn is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent serves as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ's return.

Advent is a great season of waiting which calls us to live in the moment not rushing ahead to Christmas. Waiting is a creative moment, a threshold moment where we can create time to reflect on our relationship with God;such a waiting reminds us of our dependency on God.
Advent is also a very feminine season - one of quiet waiting associated very like that of an expectant mother which of course is very apt as it is a Marian season as we wait in joyful anticipation with the pregnant Mary. In contrast to Lent which is associated with starkness, aridity and dryness, Advent is a fruitful season, pregnant with potential for growth and life both in terms of the natural world when we have the turning of darkness to light on December 21st and in faith as we have the opportunity to invite Christ into our hearts and lives with his arrival at Christmas.

When are the times when we had to wait in our lives? What are the moments when we had to put aside waiting and to rest in the moment with the God who describes himself as I AM WHO I AM.

Advent is preparation for the great season of Christmas. The readings put before us the story of the Jewish waiting for the Messiah. Are we prepared to let Jesus into our lives and hearts now? Are we open to letting him become alive in our lives? Are we willing to answer the call of John the Baptist to return to the Lord in this season; a call to become child like with wonder but not childish in our behaviour and actions.

It is also a season of Hope. At a time when we are almost on our knees which can be depressing and lonely, the call of the season is to wait in hope! The Jews waited for thousands of years for their Messiah which should give us an example to follow. We are reminded that on the shortest day of the year, we turn to the light reminding us that Jesus is "Light from Light".

Traditions of Advent

Advent wreath - It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreath with four candles and often, a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Some Advent wreaths include a fifth, "Christ" candle which can be lit at Christmas. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services. The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.

Colour purple - sign of a penitential season but not as severe as Lent, no Gloria's but we still sing the Alleluia.

Jesse Tree - The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ. It tells the story of God's salvation plan, beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." Each day of Advent a homemade ornament is added to the Jesse Tree, a small tree made of evergreen branches. These symbolic ornaments can each represent a prophecy foretelling of Christ. Other variations include creating ornaments that represent the ancestors in the lineage of Christ, or using the various monogram symbols of Christianity as handmade ornaments.

Patrick Kavanagh
We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.


Gospel - Mark 13: 3-37
As we start the new liturgical year, we move to the gospel of Mark. Mark's gospel is a short gospel at only 16 chapters and is generally viewed as the earliest of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) with a traditional date of 70 A.D. being assigned to its composition by the scholars. Tradition tells us that Mark's gospel is the testimony of St Peter.

The gospels of Advent focus on a reminder of the second coming of Jesus and then focusing on two great Advent figures, John the Baptist and Mary.

This weeks gospel is quiet short, as most of the gospel passages from Mark are through out the lectionary as it is a short gospel. As such it means we have to focus in greater depth on the words of the passage that is presented to us which gives us greater opportunity to reflect.

"Stay Awake" - this exhortation is one of the main ones that comes out of this weeks gospel. It is used four times in the short piece we read and it a is a command stressed again and again. It ties in very much with the season of Advent and the call to be awake as well as echoing the last couple of gospels of the old liturgical year with the call to be alert and prepared for the return of the Master. We are reminded of times of fearful waiting like waiting for medical results, people suffering with Alzheimer's disease, and we think and pray for people in that situation. We also appreciate the joyful waiting like expectant parents, or parents waiting for children to come home for Christmas etc.

"Time" - In a world obsessed with time and labour saving devices to save time, yet we never have enough time. Time to visit, to pray, to sleep, to participate in the miracle of nature. No time for a balance in our lives. We need to make time and spaces in our lives, to make a place for God by turning the radio and tv off, put the phone on silence to listen to your heart beat and allow God to speak to us this Advent.

Other reflections on this weeks gospel:
Saints of the Week

November 28th - St Brendan of Birr
November 29th - Tuesday, first week of Advent
November 30th - Feast of St Andrew (Apostle)
December 1st - Thursday, first week of Advent
December 2nd - Friday, first week of Advent (First Friday)
December 3rd - St Francis Xavier SJ

Pope Benedict XVI's intentions for the month of December
General Intention - Peace among all peoples - "That all peoples may grow in harmony and peace through mutual understanding and respect".

Mission Intention - Children and youth - "That children and young people may be messengers of the Gospel  and that they may be respected and and preserved from all violence and exploitation".

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