This week, we enter the season of Advent, and with it, a new liturgical year.
Advent means “coming”; it is the time in which we prepare for the coming of Christ. We are waiting with expectation. Or at least, that is what the Church invites us to do. We see the color purple in the churches, the music at Mass is calm and we even stop singing the Gloria. But what attitudes do we show others that we are waiting?
When we wait for a family member or a friend to visit, we put ourselves into action. We sweep the floors and clean the house. If our guest is staying overnight, we prepare a room and make sure they have everything they need. Well, the one who is visiting us soon is Christ, and our home is our heart. Let's get ready to receive him!
Our society is saturated with advertising for Christmas that undoubtedly influences our behavior and often overshadows Advent. Each year the holiday sales start earlier and earlier. Thanksgiving was once the beginning of the shopping season. Today, it is not uncommon to see Christmas decorations in shop windows or to hear Christmas songs in early November. If this happens with Christmas, what about Advent? Should we rescue Advent?
Definitely! The Church saw the need for the Advent season to be part of the liturgical calendar. The COVID-19 pandemic might make the season of Advent look a little different this year but, at the same time, it has helped us grow in the virtue of hope. For these reasons, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has created two digital resources to help communities and families share in the true meaning of Advent. CRS’ Advent Calendar is a digital calendar containing Scripture passages, quotes, and hope-filled images. It is a way to break away from the hustle and bustle, to pray, to prepare for the coming of Christ, and to reflect on the needs of our human family.
Likewise, Oración con la Corona de Adviento (only available in Spanish) is a weekly tool to accompany you in lighting the Advent wreath candles, turning each week into a moment of prayer. Oración con la Corona de Adviento includes prayers and stories from around the world that reflect on the presence of Christ among the poor in light of Scripture and the words of Pope Francis.
At CRS, we recognize that Advent is a time to open our hearts to Jesus through service and providing real help to those most in need. So did the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrate during Advent with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States, and the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas. From Mary, Our Mother, we learn to say “Yes” to God's will and to put ourselves at the service of others. Like her, John the Baptist accompanies us on our Advent journey, exhorting us to wait for Christ and make room for him within us since it is convenient for him to increase and we decrease.
For this reason, the Advent Calendar and Oración con la Corona de Adviento highlight the global aspect of our human family, because, to truly welcome Christ, we must begin by welcoming, assisting, and accompanying our sisters and brothers.
Our Advent should not be a passive waiting but an active one to encounter Christ who comes to us. Isaiah, a third Advent figure, urges us in Isaiah 40:3-4: “Prepare the way of the Lord … Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country a broad valley.” A passage that we could replace with: “Prepare the way of the Lord … The hungry will be satiated, and the dignity of all who are discarded will be respected. Social systems will be just, and wounds will be healed by the peace of Our Lord.” For this to happen, we must get moving!
It is time to encounter Christ by practicing good works, paying special attention to the poor, the marginalized, the migrants, and the refugees. Let us take care of those who are hungry or suffer injustice and do something concrete to alleviate their pain. Let us value the things of earth by putting our hearts in those of heaven!
We must wait awake and alert. If we are distracted by material or fleeting things, we let Christ pass by without recognizing him, without seeing him beyond the manger. May we hear the knock on our door from so many peregrinos and strangers who, like the Holy Family, come exhausted looking for rest.
Grant us, Lord, to be able to recognize you in our sisters and brothers, to love them for our world to receive, with renewed spirits and immense joy, your salvation and healing to the broken hearts of our times. Amen.
Marimar Trejo is a Content Producer at Catholic Relief Services. She works on issue-based campaigns to engage Catholics and others of good will in the United States in CRS’ lifesaving work around the world.
This blog is also available in Spanish. Read it now!