Can you imagine living the life of a perpetual wanderer? Some may be very keen on the idea while others not so much. If I made a small change and replaced the word wanderer to adventurer, I may suddenly make both parties nod their heads either enthusiastically or contemplatively. Words have the power to change perspective and change lives. I want to focus on a word that can change your perspective on the Word, in the hope that you embrace who the Word is during this season.
Advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. It is a time of preparation and anticipation for the coming of Christ. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word “advenire,” which means “to come.” This is where we get the word adventure, aventura [Spanish/Portuguese], aventure [French], and avventura [Italian].
Although Advent has often been consumed with the commercialization of the Christmas season, in most families it is still a time to reflect on the coming of Christ and to prepare hearts and minds for the celebration of Christmas.
In our Catholic tradition we celebrate six liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Sacred Paschal Triduum, Easter, and Ordinary Time. According to the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year, “Holy Church celebrates the saving work of Christ on prescribed days in the course of the year with sacred remembrance.” Let’s simplify this by recalling in the beginning of Genesis:
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and, the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters. Then God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Creation from the beginning of time was systematic and ordered, and it all begin with God’s words, “Let there be light.”
Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, and it is no wonder why human innovation has made this a season of lights. Think about the work families put in to put up lights during the season, or how families travel to locations with synchronized lights to be in awe of light. Since we are created in the image and likeness of our Creator, naturally we are drawn to Him who is the source of eternal light.
Advent as the beginning of the liturgical year sets our spiritual feet into adventure mode to seek the light in the darkness. Think about how the Word of God, during each week in Advent, prepares and empowers our adventure.
On the First Sunday of Advent Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert!’” (Mk 13:33).
On the Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist cries out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mk 1:3).
On the Third Sunday of Advent, John declares, “but there is one among you whom you do not recognize” (Jn 1:26).
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Mary declares, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word” (Lk 1:38).
These words are preparing the faithful for the adventure of Advent: An adventure that takes us through a journey of self as we explore within ourselves and our surroundings to bring light where darkness dwells. This can be done in four ways: repentance, acts of service, Adoration, and Marian devotion.
Repentance: Advent and Lent are two preparatory seasons that should lead us to repentance. The best way to prepare is to “Be watchful! Be alert!” Start the season by finding your parish’s reconciliation times and seek repentance.
Repentance is a buzzword, but, like I said, the words we use can change perspective. “Repent!” is often heard as gloom and doom, but the etymology of the word literally translates to “very sorry.” Finding a time for Reconciliation is a time to state, “God, I am very sorry for…”, and allowing His infinite mercy to dispel the darkness of sin and shame and replace it with the light of grace and forgiveness.
Acts of Service: Be a light to the world and “prepare the way” with the light of charity. Just as a house is decorated with lights for the season, allow your inner self to be decorated with the light of God, and those who see will be in awe of its beauty. Find a local shelter, soup kitchen, donation center, etc., give, give and give. These acts of service set our feet in the path of the adventure of Advent. Can you imagine our earthly home [Earth] being decorated by our lives shining and flickering the light of God’s grace and forgiveness?
Adoration: Spend some time with the One “whom you do not recognize” in Adoration. This moment of loving gaze, thanksgiving, and prayer before our Lord Jesus is a great way to keep the season fixed on Him. Many want to fight the battle of keeping “Christ in Christmas” but very few keep Christ close. Find a parish that has perpetual Adoration and find yourself there for sometime just gazing like you would at a festival of lights.
Marian Devotion: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” are the words of a brave young girl who was not afraid of adventure for the sake of salvation. Take some time as a family, with friends, parish community, or others outside the Church to pray a Rosary, or to prepare a holy place for a Marian statue on your property or in your home.
Words can change perspective on life, but only one Word can change your life for eternity. As we will hear on Christmas morning from St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”
Let us not just reflect this season, but let us live the Advent adventure and put into action the Word, because “without Him nothing came to be.”
Anchor columnist Oscar Rivera Jr., is director of Youth Ministry in the diocesan Secretariat for the New Evangelization. firstname.lastname@example.org.