This Sunday, we enter into the Holy Season of Advent. It is a time of waiting, reflection, joyful expectation, preparation, and hope, a time of looking forward and a time of looking back, of living in the present and of living in the “presence” of Christ. As with every year, the Church invites us to immerse ourselves spiritually into this season, yet our society often pulls us in other directions. Our Gospel today reminds us that we must be watchful and alert, ready to meet the Lord in whatever ways he comes to us this Advent Season. So, we try to find a balance in our spiritual preparation for Christmas in the midst of all the glitz and glitter our culture places in our midst to draw our attention to the secular celebration of the “holidays.” As we do our shopping, our baking, make arrangements for travel, plan our family celebrations, reach out to those in need, and take care of the many other things that we must in order to be “ready” for Christmas, how do we make space for Christ and remind ourselves of the real meaning of the Advent and Christmas Seasons? We do have many options these weeks of Advent: personal prayer, taking time with the Little Blue Books, reading the specially prepared Advent Inserts in the bulletin each week and doing some of the activities listed, attending weekday Mass, attending Morning or Evening Prayer, and participating in the Sacrament of Penance (to suggest a few ideas). I invite each of us to ask ourselves: how will Advent make a difference in our lives this year? How will we make the most of this time in which we prepare to meet Christ who comes to us not only at Christmas and at the end of time, but every day of our lives? Will Christ have to compete with culture or will we find a way to make him a priority in the midst of all the demands we are facing at this time of the year? If we take time for prayer and reflection, we will begin to realize that it is only Christ who can satisfy the deepest longing within our hearts, and it is only Christ who can give us true and lasting joy and happiness.
The parish Worship Commission recommended that we celebrate Evening Prayer on the Tuesdays of Advent (with the exception of the Tuesday that we have Communal Penance). I highly encourage you to try to attend at least one of the three celebrations of Evening Prayer this Advent. Sometimes Evening Prayer is called Vespers. It is one among many of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church. You may have noticed on occasion, a special prayer book that priests, deacons, or religious use for prayer (sometimes called the breviary which is the shorter and more compact form of the Liturgy of the Hours). That book contains Morning, Daytime, Evening and Night Prayer within it. Deacons, priests, and many religious communities recite those prayers each day so that somewhere at all times throughout the world, the Church is always at prayer, by marking the hours of the day in doing so. If you have never attended a communal celebration of Evening (or Morning) Prayer you may not know what to expect. Evening Prayer (and all the “hours”) celebrate the Paschal Mystery (as does every liturgy and sacrament we celebrate), and thus, the Paschal Candle is lit and placed in the midst of the assembly. In a communal celebration, there is a presider and a cantor. The order for Evening Prayer is: an Opening Dialogue, an Evening Hymn, a couple of Psalms (including Psalm 141 – the Incense Psalm) followed by Psalm Prayers, a Scripture Reading, a short time of reflection, a Gospel Canticle (the Magnificat), Intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer and the Greeting of Peace. It basically takes about a half hour (in case you are wondering about time and schedules). Please see the schedule in today’s bulletin and consider joining us for one of the celebrations of Evening Prayer. The first is this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. here at the Saint Josaphat Church site.
Don’t forget to take a tag from our Advent Angel Giving Tree. Tags are available on the trees at each of the Church entrances. Gifts are to be returned by Sunday, December 14.
Reminder: those interested in participating in the trip to Poland, In the Footsteps of St. John Paul II, there is a special meeting on Sunday, December 14 at 3:00 PM at Saint John Paul II Parish Office Center Hall.
I wish all of you a grace-filled Advent Season!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ