2 Dec 2014

Advent 2014 - A spiritual self examination

Although I obtained a Diploma in Theology from the Milltown Institute, the focus was not on the Liturgy of the Church.  I did not realize this absence until I undertook a two year Diploma in Sacred Music in Maynooth beginning in 2013.  Part of this Diploma centres much more on the Liturgical life of the church.  I had only a vague idea of the richness and beauty of the different liturgical seasons and their significance even though I have partaken in them all my life, in a particular way through the music ministry. 

The present season of Advent, started today, Sunday 30th November 2014.  The Advent Wreath’s 1st Candle, a purple one was lit today.  Advent, in the Latin (Roman) Rite, is the liturgical season of approximately four weeks before Christmas. The theme is joyful and one of expectation and is intended to prepare us the faithful for the remembrance of the Lord’s first coming in His Incarnation and also for His glorious coming at the end of time. The 1st reading of Advent this year is from Isaiah which begins with “Lord, yourself are our Father:  Our Redeemer is your ancient name”:  “Tear open the heavens and come down”:  “we are the clay and God is the potter and we are all the work of His hand.  The Gospel tells us to stay awake and be on our guard, because we never know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly he must not find you asleep.

Advent for me is a time to reflect on my own mortality.  This is not a morbid reflecting but something that makes me try better to accomplish something for the Lord, and become more aware of my limitations and mission, but carry on despite them.  Mother Teresa thought of Advent as a ‘spiritual self-examination’.  Her order, the Missionaries of Charity, have adopted a prayer written by John Henry Cardinal Newman which they say every day which is relevant to Advent:  The prayer is worth quoting here and perhaps you will find it useful and challenging:
Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance wherever I am.
Fill my heart with your spirit and your life.
Penetrate my being and take such hold of me that my life becomes a radiation of your own life.
Give me your light through me and remain in me in such a way that every soul I come into contact with can feel your presence in me.
May people not see me, but see you in me.
Remain in me, so that I shine with your light,
And may others be illuminated by my light.
All light will come from you, Oh Jesus.
Not even the smallest ray of light will be mine. 
You will illuminate others through me. Amen.
Finally, Mother was asked what advice she would give to people for Advent?.  My advice to the people is love to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself. Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive him as your own. 

- Gerard Quinn

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