A child is pictured in an illustration lighting a candle on an Advent wreath at home in Berlin, Germany. This year, after two years of pandemic Advents, offers us a chance at a new beginning in our parishes, says Fr. Yaw Acheampong. When lighting the candles on the Advent wreath, “let us live out the true meaning of the Advent candles in our hearts and minds.” CNS photo/Jannis Chavakis, KNA

Rekindling Advent in parishes

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • November 17, 2022

Advent Season is here again. On Sunday Nov. 27, the Church begins a new liturgical year — Year A, with the celebration of the First Sunday of the new liturgical Season of Advent. 

Every year, as the calendar year draws to an end, our anticipation and preparation for Advent can be overshadowed by such popular events as Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Santa Clause Parade. Over the past two years, our understanding of the Church’s traditional approach to Advent might have been further hampered because the celebration of Advent has been dictated by the pandemic and its restrictions. 

However, this year, with most of the COVID restrictions lifted, we can see Advent as a time of a new beginning and a new hope. We now have the opportunity to return to Mass and to participate in the life of our parishes. 

So, how do we begin our Advent journey this year? The traditional markers of Advent are the liturgical celebration of the Four Sundays of Advent. These Sundays are liturgically unique because they serve as “stations” guiding us on our spiritual journey towards Christmas. 

Perhaps the liturgical celebration of the First Sunday can set a tone for us. The liturgy reminds us of the spiritual significance of Advent. On the First Sunday of Advent, in the Opening Prayer at Mass, we pray that God may grant us “the resolve to run forth to meet (our) Christ with righteous deeds at His coming, so that, gathered at His right hand, (we) may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” 

The readings — including Jesus’ message on the First Sunday of Advent — also challenge us to “Keep awake, therefore for you don’t know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). 

Jesus’ message calls us to rise out of slumber. He reaches out to us to start to live as people preparing to meet His coming. 

We may recognize that the pandemic had affected our way of life. The pandemic and its restrictions have made us feel like we have been marking time with our spiritual lives. We have also learned that we have even reacted to the pandemic with feelings of mistrust, anger and frustration. 

So, due to the penitential nature of Advent we can therefore seize the moment and make Advent a time of prayer and reflection. We can reflect on how to create space and time for our Advent discipline. Our Advent discipline invites us to examine how we can return to our parish communities — our spiritual homes.

Our present situation calls us to develop a new awareness of the meaning of Advent. On Oct. 16, in his Angelus address, Pope Francis told the audience: “We need the daily water of prayer, we need time dedicated to God, so that He can enter into our time, into our lives.” According to the Pope, because we spend our time focused on many things, we often neglect what counts the most in our life. 

“We allow our love for God to grow cold,” the Pope said. 

Prayer he said is the remedy to rekindle this “tepid faith.” 

As we return to our churches, we can use our Advent discipline to turn to God. We can pray to Him to teach us how to shed our past ways and to return to practise the faith that we love. 

Every year the way we celebrate Advent may reflect our understanding of this liturgical season. Just like the rest of the wider society, we will go shopping, put up our Christmas decorations and participate in the other events associated with Advent. 

But, as people of faith, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the occasion that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” (Romans 13:11).  

One of the traditional rituals of Advent is the lighting of the candles on the Advent Wreath.  This Advent let us reflect on the true meaning of the symbols of the Advent candles. With joy, let us live out the true meaning of the Advent candles in our hearts and minds. 

Advent is a Season of hope, the hope reflected in our desire to focus on what is more important in our spiritual lives — our relationship with the Lord and with our neighbour. As we begin our Advent journey, let us ask Jesus —the Light of life — to teach us to live so that our lives may reflect God’s love and peace in our communities. 

(Fr. Yaw Acheampong is pastor of Our Lady of Peace in Etobicoke.)