The Pastor's Column

Fr. Maina

A Guide to Advent Reflection

A challenge we all face today is developing a love of silence and understanding the vital role of silence in our lives. When was the last time you stayed silent for a minute or more? The bulletin offers some suggestions about how we can use Advent to quiet ourselves spiritually. Advent in the real sense is a spiritual state that helps us to contemplate Christ in our lives.

When he was the archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Dolan wrote about advent reflection. He gave various examples of living in advent. When a patient waits in the doctor’s office for the test to be conducted, that is advent. When a family watches over their loved one in the hospital emergency room, the family remains in advent. Advent then becomes a time of expectation, of hope, of endurance. This time becomes decidedly more meaningful when we involve Christ.

The Advent season in our Catholic faith involves silence especially in a time when we experience Christmas noise. So, the moments of Advent which involve Christ are better realized when we undergo a holy silence. It is a practice, a way of life that requires humility, self-renunciation, and self- discipline. A self-disciplined practice could involve almsgiving or refraining from saying bad things about others. A practice of self-denial would be doing something simple that denies emotional happiness in order to grow in holiness. Silence also involves humility. Humility recognizes that everything I have is a gift, that God is so good and blesses my life. Advent then involves an active meditation on the life of Christ.

While most liturgical seasons focus mainly on the gospel, the first weeks of Advent (up to December 16) focus on daily readings from the prophet Isaiah. With eyes of faith, the writer foretells the coming of the Messiah. Rather than a continuous gospel narrative familiar to us for most of the year, this part of Advent offers a variety of gospel readings, each supporting the readings from Isaiah for the day. After almost two weeks of Isaiah readings, we hear the foretelling of a Messiah from other prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures--Sirach, Numbers, and Zephaniah--before returning to Isaiah once again. With each passing week, the prophets speak more plainly of the coming of a Savior. So for the first part of Advent, in the first reading, we listen to the anticipation, expectation, hope, and promise. In the second reading, we listen for the fulfillment or connection with the gospel.

During the last eight days before Christmas (December 17 to Christmas Eve), the relationship between the readings changes. Now the gospels bring us to our celebration of Christmas. They are taken from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. Each of these days, the first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is chosen to match the gospel. We might imagine Matthew or Luke having the first reading open on their desks while they wrote their gospels. We might even read the gospel first and then the first reading. The sense of anticipation and fulfillment builds as we read the story of the preparation for Jesus' first coming into this world for us.

As we look through our Christmas shopping list, let us think in a prayerful way of the people for whom we purchase gifts. May the gifts we choose bring people joy and holiness. At the same time, let us pray for those who are less fortunate in material things and do not have money to buy gifts. Finally, thank you for taking time to buy a gift for a needy person from our angel tree.

May the good Lord bless you and give you peace.

Fr. Maina
With you a Christian, for you a priest.