This weekend the church year begins anew as we begin the holy season of Advent, a name derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “the coming.” This holy season looks to the two comings of Christ; first, we look forward to our Lord’s return in glory at the end of time, and second, beginning December 17th, we look back remembering that our Lord came to us in time to be one with us in all things but sin. While it may not have the same depth of austerity as Lent, Advent is a penitential season where the words of the prophets echo to us from ages past to prepare a way for the Lord in our hearts and lives.
Even though the readings of Advent follow a three-year cycle, with Luke being this year’s primary Gospel, each of the four Sundays has its own consistent theme with its readings. The first Sunday gives us the theme of “Watch and Pray.” We may be tempted to focus on the dark imagery that is given us in Luke’s Gospel for this Sunday that speaks of Jesus’s return at the end of time, but once again we have to ask is it necessary to fear the justice of God? If we want to make life all about us and not care about our responsibilities to both God and neighbor then yes, fear the justice of God, but for those who strive to live a life pleasing to God, sinners though we are, the justice of God will result in salvation for those who earnestly seek the Lord.
I know that this time of year is a busy time for many of us, but I encourage you to not get swept away in the commotion. Advent is a beautiful season and even though it is penitential (thus the use of the color violet), it also possesses a subdued joy and peace. I encourage you to make use of this season and set aside some time for yourself with the Lord. May every nation, home, and heart make room for Christ, the Prince of Peace.
This coming Saturday, December 8th, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, patroness of our nation, diocese, and cathedral. This is a holy day of obligation. Normally holy days that fall on a Saturday have their obligation to attend Mass lifted but this is not the case for the Immaculate Conception due to her patronage of our nation. Because it is a weekend, we will maintain our normal Mass schedule but not have a noon Mass on Saturday. The obligation to attend Mass for both the holy day and the First Sunday of Advent can be done by attending two Masses in one of the following ways: Friday evening/Saturday evening, Friday evening/any time on Sunday, Saturday morning/Saturday evening, or Saturday morning/any time Sunday; however, one cannot go to Mass on Saturday morning or Saturday evening and have it count for both. You can also attend Mass Saturday evening and any time on Sunday since the Mass of Saturday evening is still on December 8th, even though the prayers and the readings will be for the First Sunday of Advent.
I know that this makes some wrinkle their brow and it is an anomaly in liturgical and canon law, like when Christmas fell on Monday last year and the question of Sunday obligation and the Christmas obligation. In short, being asked to attend Mass twice in a span of a few days will not harm anyone ☺. Blessings to you and yours for joyous and peace-filled Advent!
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.