Happy New Year!
Yes, you read correctly, happy new year. Hopefully, you know that the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year for the Catholic Church. While the calendar year begins January 1st and ends December 31st, our liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent and ends with the feast of Christ the King.
Yesterday, I celebrated Mass at Prince of Peace and had the opportunity to bless and light the Advent wreath. What an interesting tradition. Like most things in our Church, it began as a practical exercise that later developed into a religious one. It seems that a very long time ago, in Germany, farmers would remove the wooden wheels of their wagons during the winter because they would splinter and crack in the snow and ice. They brought them into their homes and stored them where they could. Realizing they had no choice but to have them in the house, the women began to decorate them with garlands and candles so they wouldn’t be an eyesore.
Thus, the tradition of the Advent wreath was born. It was such a good one that it spread like wildfire. The religious significance was then applied. Because the wheel was round, it made sense to preach that like the circle, God has no beginning or end. His love for us, expressed perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ, is eternal. The greenery of the wreath is a reminder that God is the creator of all living things. Finally, the candles are an expression of Jesus being the light of the world. Jesus is the light that breaks the darkness of sin and despair. The four candles consist of three purple candles (the color of preparation) for the first, second, and fourth Sunday of Advent with a third one colored rose (the color of joy) for the third Sunday also referred to as Gaudete Sunday.
I’m not going to lie to you, I love Christmas. Everything about it makes my toes tingle. I know we oftentimes complain the secular world seems to have kidnapped Christmas and has slowly removed Jesus from the picture. I get it, but it is up to us, not the world, to keep focused on the true meaning of this time. This is why it is so important to really take advantage of Advent and, like we do during Lent, do something extra or give up something in preparation for the birth of Christ. If we don’t take advantage of this very special season of the liturgical year, then we are no different than the world who has wrestled away Christmas from Christians.
Think about it, an extra prayer, rosary, Mass, or visit to the Missionaries of Charity or Camillus House can really do the trick to keep Jesus as the reason for the season. Talk to your parents, make a plan, do it as a family. I assure you the experience of Christmas will take on a whole new meaning.