December marks the beginning of Advent in our liturgical calendar. The season draws its name from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”. With murky origins, by the sixth century AD Advent was extolled as a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but even more so to prepare for the second coming of Christ as judge of the world. Originally a penitential season with fasting three days a week, by the Middle Ages the focus shifted more upon the birth of Jesus, and later the Anglican and Lutheran traditions relaxed the rules for fasting.
So, what does Advent mean for us individually and corporately at St. Andrew’s beyond a hectic time of holiday preparations and parties, gift buying, house and church decorating, large meals and a host of special church services? I find it paradoxical that we end the calendar year of the material world by beginning an ecclesiastical journey that commemorates the life of Jesus. I wonder if our church fathers wisely introduced Advent to draw our attention away from what has only become an increasingly commercial, material world towards the spiritual promise of Jesus?
In this sense, Advent symbolizes our present situation as the people of God who await the return of Christ in His glory. But are we to wait, or are we to consider our part, as individuals and as a church community, in bringing Jesus into the world? In 1 Corinthians 12:27, the Apostle Paul would have us believe the latter: “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” In God’s wisdom and grace, I believe that each of us has been given gifts by which we can serve Jesus, both personally and through St. Andrew’s. This sentiment certainly resonates with our parish motto: “To know Christ and to make Christ known.”
As we enter this busy season in preparation for the birth of Jesus, I encourage you to reflect upon the words of St. Teresa of Ávila:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Blessings upon you and yours for a Merry and Holy Christ Mass.
Adapted from Tom Egnew’s article
in the December Tartan