Browse by Topic: Advent

Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

Do Not Delay

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Christmas is right around the corner, and I’m not ready. I still have a number of papers to write, cards to address and mail, cookies to bake, and music to prepare for Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. While Advent is supposed to be a season of anticipation and expectation, what I’m feeling right now is overwhelmed. There’s just so much to do in order to get ready for the celebration of our Savior’s birth. It seems like every time I cross one task off my list, two more pop up in its place. 

So I can respond in one of two ways: I can procrastinate and put everything off until the last minute, or I can heed the advice of one of my brothers, who once told me, “Do work, son.” While tempted by the first option, I am sure that the second is best. I need to get organized, develop a plan of action, and get to work, now. That’s the only way that I’m going to get everything done. Besides, if I wait until the last minute, I’ll probably end up making myself sick.

The same principle holds when it comes to the spiritual life. So often we sit back and wait, wanting to be told what to do. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid to make a mistake. At other times, we are simply unwilling to make a commitment. So we avoid doing what it is God wants us to do. Instead of practicing virtue, we become slothful. We put off going to confession, and end up staying away for months, or years at a time. But this is not what God desires.

God wants us to be happy. He wants us to experience everlasting joy as we gaze upon his face. If that is to happen, then we must follow the example of our Blessed Mother. In the Gospel of Luke, we read that after the Annunciation, Mary “went into the hill country with haste” (Luke 1:39). Inspired by the angel’s news that her cousin was pregnant, Mary didn’t wait around. She packed her bags and quickly made her way to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Once there, Mary’s greeting caused John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb, and Elizabeth to cry out, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42).

Despite what some theologians have said, the story of the Visitation is not about acting impulsively. Mary was responding to God’s revelation, and we are called to do the same, in the same manner. We should not delay when it comes to the movements of the Holy Spirit. If a young man feels called to the priesthood or religious life, then he should call his diocesan vocation director and ask for more information. If a young woman feels God is calling her to do missionary work, then she should contact one of the many organizations that can help make it happen. 

And if it has been awhile since your last confession, now is the time to come back. So many parishes offer communal penance services during this holy season, so that we can get our hearts, and not just our homes, ready for Christmas. Make haste, do not delay, and enjoy the mercy God is ready to bless you with during this sacred time.  

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

The Lord is Coming

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As we celebrated the first day of Advent, I was called to reflect on the meaning of the Lord's coming. The readings for the Holy Mass were not what one might expect; they were not geared towards our Lord's coming as an infant. Instead, they were directed towards the final coming of Jesus at the end of time. The readings were marked by a gloom and doom that some might even find troubling as we begin this season of Hope and Joy. What is the reason for this?

It is indeed true that this season ought to be marked by hope and joyful anticipation of the Incarnation of the Son of God. But this is a joy totally unlike the earthly joy that often accompanies our temporal festivities. Our Christian Hope is not the hope of this present age -- this present world which will one day be passing away. No. Our hope, being the theological virtue that has God as its object, is focused like a laser beam on the world to come; the awesome promise we have in Jesus Christ -- that we will one day see God as He is in Himself, and, in that one perfect vision, be completely fulfilled. This is not a promise that can ever be realized in this life; it can never be achieved by a natural process or the exercise of our natural powers. This requires the grace of God given to us as a pure gift. This is the promise we hold by faith and it is only attainable by Grace.

This is the great meaning of the apocalyptic readings of today's liturgy. The meaning of Christ's coming as an infant in Bethlehem is only understood in the full light of that final coming at the end of time, when all will be complete, all will be subject to Christ, and Christ will be all-in-all. This is not yet a reality. But it is coming. We must stay vigilant. We must watch. We must keep ourselves prepared for the Lord who might come at any time. 

We do not know for sure when the Lord will come; no one knows the day or the hour. But one thing we do know for sure: THERE WILL BE A DAY AND AN HOUR OF HIS COMING! This is the truth that we must constantly keep before our eyes. As we progress through this awesome season of Advent, I pray that this reality will be realized in all of our lives.

Let us keep waiting!

Let us keep watching!

Stay vigilant!

The Lord is coming!

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

Reflecting on the Virgin Mary during Advent

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This season we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when we as Christians remember and extoll the great mercy of our Lord who, in creating His own mother in the womb of St. Anne, bestowed upon her the singular gift of being preserved from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. As we approach the Solemnity of the Nativity, the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes a prominent highlight of our devotional lives. Although many Catholics have been familiar with these devotions from childhood, I, having come to the Church in adulthood, have not always found it inspiring or even agreeable. When I was a new Catholic and devotion to the Virgin Mary was first introduced to me, I was told that she is celebrated as the “model Christian”, the perfect example of a holy and obedient life. How could a virginal young woman living two thousand years ago serve as a model? This seemed like nothing more than mere sentimentality. Over the last few weeks I have been, once again, through the Church’s liturgical cycles, pushed to reflect on why the Blessed Virgin Mary is now so important to my spirituality. 

At the Annunciation, through the angel Gabriel as His messenger, the God of Israel came to the Virgin Mary and proposed that she be the mother of the Messiah. At her “yes”, her “fiat”, the second person of God, God the Son, became incarnate in her womb. From that moment on the Virgin Mary was a temple of God, a walking tabernacle within which the God of Israel dwelt with His people. The Eternal word of God who was with God from the beginning, God from God and light from light, took flesh in her womb and became one of us. Through the “yes” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Eternal God would now take up a human nature and, from that moment on, be united with mankind in a union beyond the imagination of even the prophets. The Son of God would work with a human nature, act with a human nature, speak with a human nature, and ultimately redeem humanity through that same human nature. It was the “yes” of the Virgin Mary that opened the door and became the gate through which God Himself would enter the world. She submitted her entire being to the will of God to such a degree that, through her very body, God would now be one with His people.

The Virgin Mary was so docile to the Holy Spirit that she became, as the tradition of the Christian East claims, the “God Bearer”, or “Theotokos”. It is in this way that she becomes the ideal model of every Christian. What else could be meant by being a Christian than this, to be so open and united to the will of God that that very will is expressed in everything we do; to be so united with Jesus that we also become like walking tabernacles of Him, carrying His love to all that we meet? Like the Virgin Mary, through our “yes” to God, we ought to become so docile before His will that our own human natures become new vehicles by which He carries out His saving plan on earth. Like a pencil in the hand of a master poet that becomes the instrument by which he writes, our Master Poet ought to be God the Father, and our very lives be His instruments by which He continues to write the great epic of Salvation History.

It was St. Dominic’s great hope that the Order of Preachers be always under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. By entering into the true spirituality of his season of Advent, I am becoming increasingly more aware our need to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary in her complete “yes” to God the Father. My prayer is that all of my Brother Dominicans and I will become more and more a symbol and reflection of that imitation to the World. By being imitators of Mary we will be imitators of Christ.

Br. Chris Brannan, O.P.'s picture

Advent, Finals, and the Day of Judgment

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Advent has now begun, and for us students that means that the Day of Judgment is quickly approaching. Of course, by “Day of Judgment” I mean Finals Weeks in mid-December, when all of our studies for the semester are summed up in term papers and final exams, and our professors “judge” our learning for the semester by assigning grades. It is a time of busyness and of stress, of late nights, and those disconcerting moments when we think, “can I get it all done in time?

 I suppose that, in general, the several weeks before Christmas are that way for many others as well: gift-purchasing, holiday party-planning, travelling arrangements, and general preparations for the Christmas season tend to fill our time and generate a bit of stress. And Christmas day itself becomes a sort of “Judgment Day”, when the results of all of our prior efforts are revealed – and we hope that our work will not have been in vain!

 IMG_0169 copyWhile all of this busyness and stress can indeed seem to take away from the season of Advent, there is, at least, one thing fitting in all of this: Advent is supposed to be a time of anticipation and preparation; but it is a preparation for the coming of Christ – at Bethlehem and at the end of time. Thus, at the very least, our preparations for our own “judgment days” – whether that be the last due date for a research paper, the day of the final exam, or Christmas day itself – can serve as a reminder for us that something “big” is indeed coming, and we ought to be prepared.

 But how are we to prepare for the real “Final Exam” – that anticipated coming of Christ, whom we believe “will come to judge the living and the dead” (Apostle’s Creed)? Not indeed by sheer busyness, nor by worry or stress. Instead, I think one important way to prepare is made clear when we notice that the New Testament Greek word for Christ’s coming – παρουσία (“parousia”) – also simply means “presence”: we are called to prepare for  Christ’s presence in our midst. And yet, his presence is not simply a future reality: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). That is, Christ’s “coming”, or presence, has already begun in our midst; we must, therefore, acknowledge and respond to Christ’s presence now if we want to be ready for His presence in the future.

 As religious, we are reminded of this every morning, during Matins, when we pray Psalm 95, which exhorts us: “If today you here his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95:7b-8; cf. Heb 3:7-4:14). That is, “Judgment Day” begins today; Christ’s presence is before us, now – in his Church, his Sacraments, his Word, his servants, and his poor. Do we see him? Do we hear him? Are we watching? Listening?

 This advent, then, may our other preparations remind us to prepare for the presence of  Christ. Let us keep watch and adore his Presence in our midst, and let us today listen to and heed his voice in his Word, his Church, and in our conscience. Let us allow Him to call us, to change us, to make us holy. And, then, indeed, the Day of Judgment will not be a day of woe or of stress for us, but a day of fulfillment and of completion – of dwelling in Christ’s Glorious Presence.