Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy New Year!

You might think it strange to have such a sign welcoming in the New Year, but this is exactly what we find in the Gospel readings for the First Sunday in Advent - which marks the New Year, liturgically speaking.

Gospel - Matthew 24:37-44 (Ordinary Rite)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.

Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.

Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.   Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Gospel - Luke 21. 25-33 (Extraordinary Rite)

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke.
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves: men withering away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand." And He spoke to them a similitude: "See the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; so you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away."

In both the new and old lectionaries this week the Gospel message is for the End Times, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.   Advent is the season of expectation, anticipation of the Coming of the Lord.  As we prepare to celebrate the Season of Christmas (which begins with the Christ Mass), Advent is a time of preparation and penance.  Are YOU ready for the coming of the Lord?  The Church uses this Sunday to remind us not only of the First Coming, 2000 years ago, but also the Second Coming, for which no one knows the hour.

In all the hustle and bustle of the secular observation of Christmas - let us not lose sight of the fact that Christmas is not here yet.  Christmas begins with the Christ Mass, which we celebrate on Christmas Day, December 25.  Christmas then lasts at least until Epiphany, January 6th.  These days are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  I say "at least" because traditionally, Christmastide lasts all the way through Candlemas - which is February 2nd (though often the celebration of Candlemas is moved to the nearest Sunday).  Candlemas is the celebration of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin - not that she needed purification, but she needed to comply with Jewish Law, which she did to avoid scandal and sin.  During this Mass the Preface for Christmas is read, and this is the last reference to Christmas and the Nativity for the rest of the liturgical year.  The bottom line is, Christmas does not END on Christmas Day, it just BEGINS!  Leave your lights up and on through Epiphany at least, if not all the way to Candlemas!

One final reminder...   Advent is NOT the Season of Christmas - it's ADVENT!  While "the world" is into Santa Claus (which in proper perspective, is not "bad" - more on that later), we Christians are to be in a period of PREPARATION.  It is a time of reflection and penance, preparing our souls for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ - the Second Coming, that is.  We "use" the anticipation of the Christ Mass as a reminder of the Second Coming, which is why the readings for this week are on the End Times.  Take time to pray and meditate upon the state of your soul - and prepare yourself for "that day" which you cannot know precisely the day or hour of.

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