“Lord God, your Church joyfully awaits
the coming of its Savior,
who enlightens our hearts
and dispels the darkness of ignorance and sin.
Pour forth your blessings upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath:
may their light reflect
the splendor of Christ.”
Blessing of the Advent Wreath from The Book of Blessings
This Sunday initiates the beginning of our brief yet beautiful four week Season of Advent. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, the candles on the Advent Wreath remind us that Christ is the true light that dispels all darkness. Advent, though a joyful season in anticipation of the coming of our Lord, is also penitential in nature. We hear in the first reading from Isaiah chapter 63 of how much we are in need of God’s mercy: “All of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Then the passage continues with a harsh thought: what if we are so consumed with our daily routines that we forget to meditate, pray and reflect upon God? “There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.” God longs for us to be in communion with him through prayer.
As we begin a new liturgical year, Year B, the gospels are taken from Mark and are supplemented by John, since Mark is the shortest of the gospels and John does not have a designated year. Especially this summer, we will be blessed to hear several gospels in a row from John that are from the Bread of Life discourse. In todays Gospel from Mark 13:33-37, the pithy passage, as so many from Mark are, provides us with an image of leaving someone in charge while we are traveling abroad. Woe to those servants who are sleeping and slothful, but praised be those who remain vigilant and watchful. We are called to be prepared for the Lord’s coming for it will be at an hour we do not know.
May we make time this Advent Season for prayer, penance and openness to the wonder of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.