What is the Holy Season of Advent? Does it have a spiritual meaning for Catholics? Most of us know that it is the four weeks before Christmas and the start of the new Liturgical Year.
What does it means to each of us personally? During the Holy Season of Lent, we are all called to focus on repentance and turning back to our Lord. What about Advent? Advent is about Hope as we prepare to welcome Jesus into our heart and into our life.
For many Catholics (and I definitely fell in this category before), I never thought much of it as a season of waiting and anticipating the arrival of Jesus into my heart at Christmas - it is a way for all of us to be ready for the Second Coming of Our Lord. I only would remember it was the season of Advent when I saw the Advent candles being lit on the four Sundays before Christmas - three purple candles and a pink candle. However, life just went on as normal. Well not quite! It was time to think about Christmas plans, shopping, presents, loved ones to invite/to visit, setting up the Christmas tree and the Nativity crib.
How should we prepare spiritually during Advent? Is it wrong to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shopping malls playing Christmas carols and beautiful decorations everywhere and getting ready for Christmas? I do enjoy all these as I can feel the joy of goodwill and wishes of peace and love in the air. But what about our hearts? There has to be a spiritual dimension to the Season of Advent for each of us.
There are many ways we can prepare spiritually these days. Through the internet, there are many online Advent prayers, retreats, reflections that we can sign up for on a daily / weekly basis. We can attend an Advent retreat. We can pray and meditate in front of the Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes daily. These are moments of grace to help us reflect upon how ready we are to receive Jesus; how ready are we to share our Saviour's Love to all around us? For me, Advent is a time to reflect on how I try to respond to God's Call in my life. Am I being transformed to experience the Gift of Hope despite the difficulties of my life? Do I hold on in faith Jesus is always with me and for me? When our hearts are sustained by Hope in Jesus, there is a spiritual joy that radiates from within us - a peace and serenity - that others can see despite the sufferings and obstacles we face. Our faith is on the Victory of Jesus on the Cross. It is this Hope of Christ we need to nurture and let it bloom in our heart and mind. To be a Christian is to be filled with Hope. The Gift of Hope in Advent leads us to the Joy of Christmas when our hearts gladly welcome the Gift of Everlasting Love - Baby Jesus.
It has taken me many years to understand fully why the Season of Advent is really important in my faith journey and how I need to be transformed on a daily basis. If I am not a pilgrim of hope on this earth, it is going to be quite an impossible task to be a pilgrim of love and joy too! That is what our mission on earth is - God has a special call for every one of us in all aspects of our life. It is not just when we are serving in a church or mission ministry. It is in our family life as a grandparent, parent, child, sibling; at work as a business owner, investor, manager, employee, working colleague; in ministry as a priest, a religious, a lay leader or volunteer. It is crucial that our service for God is grounded in Jesus - our Hope, our Joy, Our Love.
This year, I am also catching up on my spiritual reading. The picture above are the books I will be reading until New Year. I was a real bookworm but had stopped doing so when I came to serve in Divine. The recent Kerala floods has given me a big jolt in many ways that are difficult to explain. Thanks to the convenience of Amazon.com, I have decided it is time to read, reflect and be inspired, uplifted and challenged by people who have courageously lived their faith. To believe that I can and should give my all in how I live for Christ. To look deep within my heart, how am I living for God? In a comfort zone platform or am I willing to answer God's Call with faith and not by sight? It is definitely a matter of trust. Do I trust Jesus to heed His Call? We need to constantly grow in how we serve or live for Jesus. We cannot be like the Dead Sea but we should be like the Indian Ocean - a constant flow of water filled with life and never-ending power of spiritual zeal.
It is important to be open and rejuvenated of new ideas, new vision and new approach to how Jesus wants each of us - you and me - to live our call. Each of us is special to God who lovingly promised us, "You are precious in my eyes and I love you." (Isaiah 43:4) God has blessed us with our talents and skills. As we start this sacred season of Advent, let us wait upon God's Spirit to enlighten our heart and mind so that we are fully receptive to whatever Jesus has in store for us in our future - "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelations 22:20)
The YouTube music video below,"BE BORN IN ME" sung by Francesca Battistelli is a beautiful hymn to prepare us in anticipation for Holy Christmas.
I wish all my family, friends and readers of this post
a most blessed and enlightening Advent!