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 also 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 Matthew now being this year’s primary Gospel, each of the four Sundays have their own consistent theme with their own readings. This first Sunday always has the theme of “Watch and Pray.” This year we hear from Paul’s Letter to the Romans where we are told to “wake from sleep.” Why? The answer follows in this Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew: “you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” This Gospel is not one of doom and gloom but an admonition for us to be ready every day and always for the Lord’s appearance; for those who will be ready to receive him, greater things will follow.
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.
As we being our Advent journey, three important celebrations are coming in the next week. First, we begin our annual novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception this Sunday evening, December 1st, and this will continue every evening through December 8th at 7PM. The novena will end on December 9th at the 5:15PM Mass. Second, this Monday, December 2nd, is the anniversary of the rededication of our Cathedral Church and is a solemnity in our parish and a feast day in every other parish in the diocese. I find it hard to believe that this will mark ten years since that beautiful celebration in 2009. Third and final, this coming Sunday, December 8th, would normally be the Solemnity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, but it is transferred to Monday, December 9th because it cannot land on the Second Sunday of Advent, thus why the novena begins and ends a day later this year. This is the only circumstance when the obligation to attend Mass for the Immaculate Conception is lifted. While this year it is not a holy day of obligation, I still encourage you to come and honor our Blessed Mother who is patroness of our nation, diocese, and parish under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Masses that day will be at the regular daily times of 7AM and 5:15PM.
For me, this Sunday begins my favorite time of year, now through the end of the Church’s celebration of Christmas in mid-January. For some, this season can be stressful or sad; for all of us, the Lord wants us to know his peace, now and in every season. Open your heart to the Lord, watch and pray, and you will find him, his grace, and his peace.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.