Today begins the new year for Catholics, and with it a new missal for the Church. We notice this most in some changed phrases in the Mass, but this renewal goes much deeper.
Renewal in the Church
In the history of the Bible, we remain in the Translation stage, but an important shift has taken place. Rather than allowing approximate translations of classical Latin Mass texts, there has been a return toward more strict interpretation. The misperceptions unleashed after Vatican II have now found some corrective.
This renewal offers us an opportunity to reconsider how we reference God through the Mass, and how we respect the priest in his sacred office as persona Christi — in the person of (representing) Christ — when vested in the garments of his priestly office.
Rethinking words we say automatically in our Mass responses, gives us a chance to think harder about how we offer ourselves — soul, mind and body — to Christ in participation of His self-offering through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In the Nicene Creed, we are reminded to call the Church “Holy Church.” When we enter the doors of the Church, and bless ourselves with Holy Water, we cross a threshold — from our regular Earthly life to glimpse paradise. As such, our imaginations are drawn upward to the transcendent God, whose blessings are more than we can imagine in our relations among His creatures.
Yes, He shows His mercy through our hands as well, but in the Mass we receive from above the most Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord — right into our very beings. The language of “spirit” has returned more directly as a constant reference point in the Mass. It’s more than the word “you could contain.”
Season of Renewal Through Penance
Advent, as the purple color reminds, is a penitential season. This allows Catholics to provide a powerful witness amidst a culture rushing the Christmas season, and busy with lesser-order goods: gift-giving, elaborate decorating and partying.
Hold onto the penitential spirit of Advent. It’s hard. We’re told to shop and shop, take advantage of sales, be prepared early. But all that is naught to the real work we are to do during Advent: Grow in awareness of our faults, ask for forgiveness through Confession, and cooperate better with Grace to change our bad habits and reorient our lives to the centrality and teleological reality of the Divine.
We are to ready ourselves for the return of Christ. Yes, we will greet the babe of Bethlehem anew Christmas Eve, but we are preparing in Advent for His return. When we say “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we should say these words with especially renewed liveliness in this season of patient waiting.
1. Hold onto Advent, as a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Orient your day to the rhythm of the Church year. Go to daily Mass if you can. Read the daily Mass prayers at home if you cannot. Make a spiritual offering in participation of the Mass throughout the world.
2. Decorate your home and wreath with purple for the season of Advent. Light the Advent candle each night, and say the daily and weekly
3. If you can, do the
Jesse Treereadings daily, and tap into the fullness of Salvation History, as outlined in Scripture and decorative symbols during Advent.
4. Learn a new prayer, like the Memorarea, the Magnificat, the Angelus. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
5. Each Sunday of Advent, have a special meal with your family.
6. Honor Gaudette Sunday (third Sunday in Advent) as the transition point to Christmas preparations. Shop for gifts with/for your children, and keep them minimal to not allow materialism to distract from Christmas. Put up your tree this third Sunday, and add the Christmas decorations.
7. Honor the key Feast days of Advent:
St. Francis Xavier’s Feast Day (Dec 3): Pray for the Church in Asia, and celebrate with an Asian dinner.
St. John Damascus (Dec 4): Pray for re-union of Catholics and Orthodox Churches. Put up an icon in your home, and explain what it means.
St. Nicholas’ Feast Day (December 6): Put candy in your children’s shoes.
The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Dec 8th) Pray the Rosary as a family.
Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day (December 12): Celebrate with a Mexican dinner.
St. Lucy’s Feast Day (December 13): Greet your family with only candles, hot cocoa and sweet buns for breakfast.
St. John of the Cross’ Feast Day (Dec 14): He is famous for taking on the most humble chores with joy. Have a family work day with jubilant Christian songs to celebrate the virtue of work done joyfully.
St. Peter Canisius’ Feast Day (Dec 21): He was a “secret agent” of the Vatican during the 17th century, during the Council of Trent, which countered the Protestant heresies. Make a Catholic witness these last few days before Gaudette Sunday.
Take the opportunities Advent provides us to the maximum this year, by pushing away the materialistic and secular pressures that flatten Christmas to merely one day, and weight the blessings under lesser-order goods of presents and parties.
May you have a blessed Advent, and grow energetically in your faith, while patiently waiting for all that He has to reveal to you this season.
Come, thou, long expected Jesus, and set your people free!