Preparing for Christ

| Kate Soucheray | December 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

Advent is one of the least understood and least acknowledged liturgical seasons of the Church year. Many of us are quick to think about Christmas, rather than Advent, at this time of year. In fact, we found holiday decorations in the stores before Halloween so we could get a jump on our shopping. But here we are in the beginning of December and we likely have not even engaged in the season of Advent.

Advent is a lovely, little season of the liturgical year, which means it occupies a specific time in the Church’s calendar that helps us understand and celebrate Christ’s presence in our lives. As Maxwell Johnson, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor who teaches at Notre Dame, states, the liturgical year helps us “through feast and fast, festival and preparation, to celebrate the presence of the already crucified and risen Christ among us ‘now!’”

Initially, Christianity, instituted by Christ through his love and compassion for all humanity, was an illegal religion in the Roman empire, until Constantine used it as the means through which he would unify his empire. Constantine initially had a vision of the cross of Christ in the clouds before a battle, even though he was not Christian. He then had a dream that he was to place the Greek symbol for Christ — chi-rho — on the uniforms of his soldiers, ensuring that God would be with them, assisting them in vanquishing their enemy. Constantine’s troops did as they were instructed, and they did, indeed, win the battle.

At that point, Christianity became the official religion, and the Nicene Creed was written, following the Council of Nicaea in 325, so that all Roman citizens could profess their allegiance to this new way of living and worship. However, some Roman citizens had been Christians before imperial Christianity, and they knew the faith required something of them beyond mere words. To be a Christian meant to have a thorough understanding of the importance of living authentically and being alive and present in Christ, through the daily expression of their faith. They understood Christianity through rising each day and living out their commitment to be Christ’s presence in the world through right-ordered relationships.

ACTION CHALLENGEWhat have you done during this season of Advent to dedicate yourself to becoming more Christ-like? How have you demonstrated to your family members your renewed commitment to the goals you set for yourself in January 2018? Has this year been a year of spiritual growth for you?

“St. Martin’s Lent” was created in France in the fifth century to commemorate the life and work of St. Martin of Tours, a third-century bishop of what is now Tours, France. This “Lent” began on St. Martin’s feast day, Nov. 11, and initially lasted for 40 days, providing a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus in their lives at Christmas. Similar to Lent preceding Easter, St. Martin’s Lent was to prepare Christians for Christ’s manifestation into a broken world.

Pope Gregory I instituted what we now know as Advent in the sixth and seventh centuries, offering themes, ideas and prayers to celebrate this liturgical season and to help Christians prepare for the coming of Christ. Advent now begins on the Sunday following the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and is considered the beginning of the liturgical year.

In light of this, Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ in our lives and our hearts, in order that the celebration of Christmas will bring a new awareness of our love for others, often expressed through gift-giving. We are to be transformed throughout the season of Advent to become more loving, more patient, more trustworthy and dedicated to being the presence of Christ to those in our lives. This is the essence of the season of Advent.

Begin today to gain a new understanding of the season of Advent. Even if you think you have missed half of this lovely season, take out your Advent wreath and candles and offer a prayer when you sit down to dinner with your family. Focus again on your Advent calendar and remind yourselves that each day of Advent, whether it holds the surprise of a little piece of chocolate or a reminder of the various aspects of the season, puts a focus on the true meaning of Advent and all it is intended to mean for us.

As Johnson reminds us, “Christmas is not about the baby Jesus in the manger ‘back there and then.’ It is about our baptismal birth in the adult Christ as he is born anew in us through the Spirit who brings ‘glad tidings’ of salvation — the one salvation — to us now.”

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul.

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Category: Simple Holiness