“Children gather ‘round today, waiting for Jesus. Come let’s sing a song and pray, waiting for Jesus. Light the candles one by one, as we wait on God’s own Son, Children gather ‘round today, waiting for Jesus.”
During the season of Advent, before the school term ended for the Christmas vacation, this was one of the many Advent hymns I remember singing with the students during the morning assembly. They would always be reminded of what was expected of them as they “waited for Jesus”.
Viewing Trinity TV’s Holy Mass on the first Sunday of Advent, I was reminded of this as I listened to Fr Anthony de Verteuil’s homily on how we should prepare ourselves during the season of Advent as we “waited” for Jesus. He also provided some historical facts about the ancient way and today’s celebration of the season.
Previously, Advent was a period of prayer, fasting and penance for those preparing for baptism on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The change to how Advent is celebrated today was influenced by the Italians who used the period to prepare to commemorate the first coming of Christ.
The purple vestments, the wreath with the candles, the readings, etc, were all part of the package. Fr Anthony also encourages all to view the nativity scene with the aim of remembering how the Saviour of the world came in humility and simplicity. He asks us to allow it to assist in focusing on the real reason for the season.
Fr Anthony further explained that although we declare Advent a time of waiting, it must not be just aimless waiting, doing things as usual, but a time of active spiritual preparation, through decent living, fasting and abstinence, penance, sacrifice and meditation on the readings of the season.
He also urged that the Sacrament of Reconciliation be part of the preparation and that those of us answering the call, should also encourage the lukewarm Catholics to do the same.
In reflecting on the message shared by Fr Anthony, I acknowledged that although there are devout Catholics among us, there are many who do not observe the season of Advent as we should. I guess the excitement of the physical preparations takes precedence over the spiritual preparations.
But the first candle of Advent that is lit, represents Hope, reminding us that where there is life, there is hope, and as we learnt since the days of the ‘penny Catechism’, “Hope is a supernatural gift from God by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and all the means necessary to obtain it, if we do what He requires of us.”
We have life, and so we must keep hope alive, and as Fr Anthony reminded us, this is the opportunity for extra prayers, extra devotions, intercessory prayers, etc, in a bid to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ who lives in us through His Holy Spirit.
This Advent season, Father encouraged, should be treated as our first, last and only Advent, since for some of us, this may be His final coming!
In closing, Fr Anthony urged that we walk in the light of the Lord, seeing Him in the less fortunate, the homeless, our enemies, the ‘bad’ people, etc, reaching out in love, encouragement, forgiveness and with prayerful expectation, inviting others to come back to Christ.
As we wait, we pray that Jesus would come into our hearts, our minds and our souls as we prepare to commemorate the first coming of Christ Jesus at Christmas.