The word advent, derived from the Latin adventus, means coming and calls to mind the Greek word parousia.
During the fourth and fifth centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season set apart for the preparation of catechumens who would be baptized on the feast of the Epiphany. During this special period of preparation, people devoted 40 days to penance. However, by the sixth century, Christians in Rome had come to associate Advent with the coming of Christ, not so much in his first coming through his humble birth in Bethlehem, but in his second coming at the end of time and as judge of all the world.
Only in the Middle Ages was Advent explicitly celebrated in remembrance of Christ’s first appearance at Christmas and in anticipation of Jesus’ future coming in glory.
This year Advent began on Sunday, Dec. 1 and lasts for four Sundays. To celebrate these two elements of remembrance and anticipation, Advent’s first two Sundays focus on Christ’s final appearance among humankind, while the last two Sundays draw attention to Jesus’ first appearance. In remembering one appearance, we prepare worthily for the other yet to come.
A special season within the liturgical year, Advent speaks to the heart of who we are, pilgrims on the way, companions on the journey, fellow explorers, always making our way toward God. Yet, we are also a people in waiting and hope, knowing that our journey will end only when God intends it. Until then, we join together in joyful anticipation of what God has in store.
While some may be caught up with shopping, parties, gifts and decorations, Advent believers appreciate, enjoy and then see beyond the secular trappings of the season and find joy and hope in the Christ who is being revealed among us.
He is Son of God, Lord of All, Hope of the Hopeless, Joy of the Sorrowing, Healer of Hearts, Lover of Sinners and Forgiver of All. This is the God, the Christ whom we are to bring forth to the world, as Mary did. During this Advent season, we both remember and anticipate.
At Saint John Fisher Church three events will mark this season before we begin to celebrate Christmas.
One is a concert in our Church on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. Five of our choirs will sing Advent and Christmas hymns. This may give you a wonderful opportunity to hear them and perhaps see our church.
The second is a communal Penance Service on Monday evening, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
This season gives us Catholics the opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christ’s coming. It is during this time that people come to the sacrament of reconciliation in which they confess their sins and strive to avoid them in the future. About 15 priests will be here to hear confessions, so that those attending don’t have to wait too long.
The third event is a Filipino celebration known as Simbang Gabi. This tradition goes back almost 400 years and is celebrated in different Catholic parishes for the 9 days before Christmas. In our parish we will be celebrating it on Dec. 21 at our 5 p.m. Saturday mass.
With singing in both English and Tagalog and colorful banner and native dress, you will experience how our Filipino brothers and sisters celebrate the coming of Christ.
Advent has just begun, and you are most welcome to enjoy what is to come.
Monsignor David Sork is Pastor of St. John Fisher Catholic Church, Rancho Palos Verdes. Masses are on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. and on Sunday at 7:30, 9 and 10:45 a.m., and 12:30 and 5 p.m.
He was educated at St. John’s College, Camarillo, CA (B.A. and M.A.), and Fordham University, New York (M.A. and Ph.D.) He lives on the church grounds at Crenshaw Blvd. and Crest Rd. and can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.