Question: Where did Advent come from?
We have evidence of the time before Christmas being a particular time of spiritual preparation dating back to the Council of Saragossa in 380 AD. By the end of the sixth century the season began to take shape as a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Pope St. Gregory the Great established the time of Advent in the form we still use today, fixing it at four weeks and composing prayers and antiphons to be used specifically during this time.
Question: Why do you wear pink on the third week of Advent?
There are various liturgical colors for different seasons and celebrations during the year, but the color pink (technically “rose”) is only used twice during the year, and one of those times is during Advent. The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, which means Rejoice Sunday. It comes from the first prayer of that Mass, “Gaudete in Domino semper. Rejoice in the Lord always,” which is a direct quote from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians chapter 4, verse 4. The idea is that we are supposed to rejoice at being close the celebration of Christmas. The color pink symbolizes this joy because it is a lighter color than purple, which represents repentance, but not the full gold of Christmas. We rejoice, but we’re still in a mode of repentance.
Question: What are we supposed to do during Advent?
Remember that Advent is supposed to be a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas, and we prepare through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. You can pray during Advent by reading the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1:1-2:40) and considering what the birth of the Son of God means for the world and for you. Another tradition Advent prayer is the “O Antiphons,” which should be familiar because of the song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
You can fast by abstaining from meat, or some other food, on Fridays of Advent, which the Church asks us to do in Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law, “Abstinence from mean, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.” This is binding on all Catholics who are at least 14 years old.
You can give alms by donating to Church, to the St. Anthony box, or to other charities. We say that Christmas is the season of giving, as God gave us His greatest gift at Christmas, His Son, but we can start giving already during Advent.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28
Like the other commandments, the sixth applies to an entire area of human life. It names, as the specific prohibition, the sin of adultery, which is betrayal of the marital bond, but it also extends to other acts in this area of life. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord makes it clear that we are called to a higher standard in this area of life. We ought not to aim for the minimum, but to strive for virtue even in how we think of other people.
Reflecting on the marriage vows can help us to better understand the Church’s teachings in this area. In their vows a husband and wife promise fidelity to one another for the rest of their lives, not merely in this moment or until I don’t feel like it any more. They promise to be faithful to one another “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” and “to love and honor” one another “all the days of my life,” or “to love and cherish until death do us part.” They each promise a generous, self-giving, fruitful love to one another for the rest of their lives and in each moment in between, and they are called to live out that promise.
The physical expression of that promise is the marital act, in which the marriage is consummated. The marital act is an expression of the total gift of self. That is simply what the act means, and taking it out of the context of marriage is inherently dishonest. It amounts to making a promise of total love and commitment that we don’t really mean or intend to keep.
The call to chastity is a call to respecting the dignity of every person by not using anyone as an object for our own gratification, even just in our thoughts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God’s fidelity and loving kindness. The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality. Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all” (CCC 2346-47). That is, chastity allows us to enter into true friendship and witness to the selfless love of Christ, because it frees us to work for the good of others and not to worry about what they can do for us.
“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2339). How do we develop the virtue of chastity and grow in the discipline of self-mastery? First, stay close to the Blessed Mother. Mary, the Mother of God, is our greatest advocate in learning to imitate Christ. Praying the rosary daily and other Marian devotions is one of the best things we can do to grow in chastity. Second, practice custody of the eyes, which is the discipline of avoiding those things that can lead to temptation, both in the world and in media. Finally, practice seeing Christ in every person and treating everyone as a brother or sister. Each one of us is created in the image and likeness of Christ, and everyone is either our brother or sister in Christ or potentially so, and Jesus Christ calls on us to “love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
The month of November is the last month of the liturgical year. We’ll begin a new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, which is November 28 this year, as we prepare for Christmas. However, the end of the liturgical year coincides with the beginning of winter. As the trees begin losing their leaves, animals go into hibernation, and the weather gets colder (which it may or may not do here in Louisiana), the Church spends the month of November focusing on the last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. These are the last things or the final things that we experience, and we have to take them into account. Some say that “you only live once,” so “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” If you only live once, and you know neither the day nor the hour, then you should focus on the important things of life, the things that really matter, like faith, family, and friendship. To begin this month, I thought I’d share some famous last words that we can use as fuel for meditation and contemplation:
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:58-59)
-- St. Stephen, deacon and martyr
“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”
-- St. Andrew Kim Taegon, martyr
“Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner, a poor sinner.”
-- St. Bernadette Soubirous, religious sister
“Let me go to the house of the Father.”
-- Pope St. John Paul II
“May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies! Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)”
-- Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ, martyr
“If all the swords in England were pointed against my head, your threats would not move me. I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
-- St. Thomas a’ Becket, bishop and martyr
(While gazing on a crucifix) “Oh! I love Him! My God, I love you!”
-- St. Therese of Lisieux, religious sister
“Your will be done. Come, Lord Jesus!”
-- St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.