Advent: The Reason for the Season

The Annunciation_Edward Burne-Jones_ 1879_ Oil on canvas_ 98 x 41 in_ National Museums and Galleries on MerseysideDr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
December 2, 2012
First Sunday in Advent

“Advent” is simply the Latin word for “coming.” If we can manage to meditate on any “coming” in December besides the comings and goings of Christmas shopping, it would be Christ’s coming to Mary in a stable.
But the liturgy of the first three weeks of Advent speaks of another coming, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time.
From the earliest days of the Church, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ promise to return. Many have claimed to recognize the signs of his imminent return and even have tried to predict the actual date . They’ve had some explaining to do when he failed to show up as forecasted.
I have news for you. I am absolutely certain that we, today, are truly living in the last days. How do I know? Because we’ve been living in the last days since Jesus has ascended into heaven (1 Jn 2:18, 1 Pet 4:7).
When is Jesus coming back? That’s the wrong question. The last trumpet, Jesus riding on the clouds–is all this to be taken symbolically or literally? Wrong question again.
Have you heard the joke about the young priest who rushes into the pastor’s office and says “The Lord has been spotted walking up the aisle of the Church. What do we do?”
The pastor looks up with alarm and says: “For God sake, Father, look busy!”
We should not be wasting our time theorizing about dates, or the nature of the rapture or the final tribulation. This is a distraction. Rather, we are not just to look busy but actually be busy preparing the way for his return.

That means being prepared and ready, not weighted down, neutralized, and utterly distracted by the cares of this world (Lk 21: 34-36). It means, as Paul tells us in 1 Thes 3, to work to make greater progress in the life of holiness, “putting on” the character of Christ. It also means preparing the way by calling others to faith in Christ, since all baptized Catholics are called to be evangelizers.

The second coming of Christ, like the first, involves a birth. Only this time, it will be the birth of a new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet 3:13; Ro 8:19-23; CCC 1042). Birth is always preceded by labor and travail. In fact birth is a sort of crisis that puts everyone involved to the test. The labor pains to bring one baby to birth are intense enough. Imagine the labor pains prior to the birth of a whole new creation.

With all due respect to the Left Behind fantasies, faithful Christians won’t be spared the tribulation preceding His final coming any more than Mary and Joseph were spared the tribulations surrounding his first coming (CCC 672, 1 Cor 7:26). The idea of a secret rapture snatching Christians away from what the Catechism calls “the final cosmic upheaval” (CCC 677) appears nowhere in the Bible or tradition. It is an idea concocted by a sectarian Protestant teacher in the 19th century and was immediately rejected as dangerous by other Protestant pastors.

Why? Because if we think we’ll be exempted from suffering, then why prepare for it? And when crisis does in fact come, we may buckle under the pressure.

But doesn’t all this talk of tribulation put a damper on the festive holiday spirit?
Are parents any less excited about the birth of their first child because they may have to take a Lamaze class or talk to the doctor about pain meds and cesarean sections? There is no birth without labor. So as we rejoice in hope over the imminent new arrival, perhaps we ought to do everything possible to make sure that the labor goes successfully. That way there’ll be something to rejoice about.
And we better not dilly-dally. It could be any day now.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 2, 2012

Looking for Jesus
One of Leo Tolstoy’s stories is called “The Cobbler and His Guest.” I’d like to share it with you today: In the city of Marseilles there was an old shoemaker named Martin who was loved and honored by his neighbors. One Christmas Eve, as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to himself. “If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if Jesus were to be born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give Him!” He rose from his stool and took from a shelf overhead two tiny shoes of softest snow- white leather, with bright silver buckles. “I would give Him these, my finest work.” Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes, it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name…”Martin! Martin! You have wished to see Me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your window. If you see Me, and bid Me enter, I shall be your guest at your table.”

1 Advent: The Work of Advent
The Christmas music has started up. It is particularly evident in the stores where the merchants are trying to get us in the Christmas mood of giving, or, at least, buying. It is not that way in the Church, though. Instead of Christmas decorations, there is the purple of Advent. We don’t sing Christmas carols yet. In fact, the beginning of Advent presents the exact opposite of the sweet and syrupy Christmas sentiments. Advent begins not with cribs and shepherds and Silent Night, but with the prophecy that God will make a powerful intervention in human history. Look at today’s Gospel. It is one of the scariest passages in Scripture: “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming. The Son of Man will come on a cloud with power and great glory.”

A Fable About Suffering, Seeking And Finding God
“Lani. Slow down! You’ve got four legs, I have two.”
My beautiful black Lab can sure motor when she wants. The brick-red shale crumbles under my feet as I try to keep up. We’re hiking up a steep grade to one of our favorite vantage points. The sounds of the valley accompany us. I can see my neighbor’s barn in the distance, a little beat up but a marvel nonetheless. Artists would love it if they could find it; within the confines of a farm, it’s taken for granted.

Advent – the Reason for the Season
“Advent” is simply the Latin word for “coming.” If we can manage to meditate on any “coming” in December besides the comings and goings of Christmas shopping, it would be Christ’s coming to Mary in a stable.
But the liturgy of the first three weeks of Advent speaks of another coming, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time.

10 Things You Need to Know About Advent
Advent begins this Sunday.
Most of us have an intuitive understanding of Advent, based on experience, but what do the Church’s official documents actually say about Advent?
Here are some of the basic questions and (official!) answers about Advent.

Irreplaceable Dad
He’s a business owner, a basketball player, a biography reader, and a nap lover. He grew up playing on his grandparents’ farm and climbing fences in the backyards of Bexley, Ohio. As a young man, he worked his way through Harvard, eating 11-cent boxes of macaroni and cheese and mooching off tea sandwiches at business school luncheons. Today he’s giving back by serving on a number of boards, committees, and councils. But of all the things he does, the job he loves most is being a husband and a father.

The Power of a Baby — A Christmas Story
#6 and I went Christmas shopping at the mall yesterday. I was looking for gifts, and he was in his sling beaming his toothless grin at an adoring world. He loves the sling because it allows him to meet people eye to eye, and he is a boy who dearly loves people.
He often gets ignored or overlooked when people see only the number of children I have with me and not his sunny face. Yesterday he was in his glory. The only child in sight, he was free to flirt his way through the stores, one enchanted face at a time.

Does emotional suffering hinder spiritual growth?
Q: Dear Dan, since many people may suffer from some level of emotional immaturity due to childhood experiences, what effect does this have on becoming spiritually mature?

Problems such as shyness, depression, lack of self-confidence, sensitivity to criticism, etc. affect trust in God and being able to benefit from spiritual direction. What advice would you give those are in such a situation who are seeking spiritual direction but are finding it difficult to make that phone call or to feel comfortable confiding in another person (assuming, of course, that they already pray and are frequenting the sacraments)?

A Spiritual Armory: Top Ten Guides To Spiritual Warfare
The spiritual life of a Christian is not easy – nearly every moment presents new challenges, new and harder decisions to make, new opportunites to serve or reject Christ, new temptations, ad infinitum. I quote it all the time, I know, but the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian are dead on when he says that the soldiers of Christ must engage in this warfare constantly.

If this be true, and if the devil really is prowling like a roaring lion, then we are going to need to be equipped for the battle. Here then are ten weapons that comprise a small but effective armory in the spiritual war against the flesh and the devil:

Praying for the Dead:Duty and Privilege
After my mother died in October 2011 from cancer, I threw myself into cleaning her home. The last six months of her illness she hadn’t able to do any housework. As I cleaned in every corner, I contemplated the afterlife, wondering whether she was in heaven or purgatory and weighing her many virtues compared to her faults. Engrossed in organizing and dusting, I would unexpectedly happen upon books on purgatory, and each time I felt jarred — wondering if it was a coincidence or message.

Ten Silly Reasons You Won’t Pray Today (and Why You Should Reconsider) 1. You don’t know how to do it.

You know how to talk, don’t you? That’s what prayer is — talking to God, and learning how to listen. Like any conversation, it feels awkward if you are more or less strangers, or if you’ve been away for a while, but prayer is something that everyone can learn. Try some Ignatian Spirituality for some gentle, practical advice on how to get the conversation going.

Accidental Evangelism
Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to how can a regular Catholic Joe like me can fulfill my evangelical duty. I suppose when I think about evangelism, I conjure images of a man on a soapbox on the corner or walking door to door like the Jehovah Witnesses do.
When I think of these things, I get intimidated and turned off. And then I do nothing.
So I have been wondering how a guy like me, a guy with a 50+ hour a week job with frequent business travel, a family with a wife and five young children, a mortgage and home could possibly evangelize too. It is so daunting and it seems impossible. And so I do nothing.

3 of the Most Unlikely Saints
The Saint Louis Tribune was not alone in casting doubt as to whether Dorothy Day could become a saint: They asked, “Could a bohemian journalist, who had a failed marriage and an abortion, be a candidate for Catholic canonization?”
This, it seems to me, is a bit of a strange question because in reality aren’t all saints unlikely?
I did a little research and came up with a few saints that jumped out at me as some of the most unlikely.

In the World but Not of the World
I’ll tell you what I had in my fundamentalist Evangelical upbringing which the American Catholic church could use a hefty dose:

It was the underlying mentality that we were “in the world, but not of the world”. We went to a little Evangelical fellowship. The families were close. We shared the same world view. We shared the same religion, and that religion taught us that we were a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.” We were committed followers of Jesus Christ and the other people out there were, well, “worldly”.

Consecrating Our Lives to God
For those of us prone to daydream, the Offertory seems to be the slowest part of the Mass. After the proclamation of the Gospel and the homily, but before the Eucharistic Prayer, there’s a pause in the action, in which the priest stops to receive the bread and wine, and the collection basket is passed around for the tithe. It can take a lot of spiritual discipline to stay focused here, but if you know what’s going on, you see the Church quietly answering a rampant heresy.

Do Priests Have to Say Mass Every Day?
Q1: My husband and I watched a movie about medieval knights recently, and in it there were some monks who all went to their chapel in the middle of the night to pray and sing together. Is that still done in the Church anywhere today? –Alicia
Q2: We have a retired priest living in our parish rectory with the pastor. There’s one Mass scheduled per day during the week. They take turns saying it. I asked the parish secretary what time the other priest says Mass, if he doesn’t say the scheduled one. She looked surprised and said that they don’t say Mass unless it’s on the schedule. Can that be right? Aren’t priests required to say Mass every day?

Hell and the Enemy exist. Priests and bishops who don’t teach about them will probably wind up there.
Before anything else, let it be said that, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)


The greatest accomplishment of the Enemy of our souls is to deceive people that the Enemy doesn’t exist … that there is no Hell … that people can’t go to Hell … that no one is in Hell, blah blah blah.

Why I’m Not a Protestant
I was raised a Protestant in the Baptist Church and over many years I found my way to catholicity. My first encounter with Anglicanism was at St. Luke’s Anglican Mission in Isfahan, Iran. Being a Christian in that country was a serious matter. Persecution of the Iranian parishioners was common and the expatriate community was aware of their hardships.

The fervency of commitment and the humility of the English missioner priest left a lasting impression on me. When I joined the Anglican Church, I believed that I was entering into the fullness of the “one holy catholic and apostolic faith.” In retrospect, I believe that I had merely entered a liturgical form of Protestantism.

How Cardinal Newman Handled the Haters
In January 1864, the Protestant pastor and novelist Charles Kingsley reviewed an English history book for Macmillan’s Magazine. The review began innocently enough. Kingsley critiqued the author’s handling of English figures like Mary Tudor and Queen Elizabeth. However, it quickly devolved into potshots against Catholicism in general, and against one of its most ardent supporters, John Henry Newman. Newman was confused and hurt by Kingsley’s remarks, especially this one:

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