During Advent the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!
It's puzzling that so many forget the time of Advent is a time for fasting and sacrifice just as the time of Lent. These are the only two penitential seasons in the Liturgical Calendar and both call for violet or purple vestments as the liturgical colors representing penance. Everyone knows that Advent means preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. But they equate preparing for Christmas by hauling out the packed boxes of lights and ornaments, wreaths, etc., putting up the Christmas tree, creche scene; the pressure of getting Christmas cards out to people we haven't seen in years; and stretching the credit limit beyond the breaking point by jostling with others at crowded malls and stores in a pique of greed for "just the right gift" that piles on the burden of guilt. That, folks, is not what Advent is all about. That is the stress placed on society by a godless media and culture that stresses more, more, more with little thought to the Christ Child Who had nothing! No, Advent is a symbol of preparing for the birth of the Savior as the people in the time of B.C. so longingly anticipated. This editor teaches a confirmation class at our parish and I was amazed how few of the boys and girls knew what Advent was about. Some of the responses received when I brought our advent wreath in with the four candles, three purple and one rose were something right out of "Kids say the darndest thing" with Art Linkletter. Some of the replies: "that Jesus was four years-old when He was born;" "four weeks until we get to open presents;" "that wreath goes on the door, but I don't know what the candles are for." Well, you can see they were in for an education about Church tradition and what the four candles mean. Yes, it does stand for the four weeks before Christmas, but it also stands for the 4,000 years between the fall of Adam and Eve and the coming of the "Second Adam" - Jesus Christ, through the fiat of the "second Eve" - His Blessed Mother Mary - the flames of the candles stand for Christ as the Light of the world - a world in darkness for four millenniums while the coming of the Messiah was expected and prepared for. Halving that four-thousand year increment was the great flood which only Noah was prepared for. It was God's way of cleansing the earth - of renewing mankind. He has a habit of doing this every 2,000 years if you check biblical history. First Noah, then 2,000 years later the birth of His Only-begotten Son Who redeemed all mankind - from those who had died over the past 4,000 years to the time of Christ and were "stalled" in Limbo because of the fall of the first parents. He also introduced the New Covenant which replaced the Old Covenant and was to be followed by all.
Sadly, some decided His directives weren't good enough and formed their own covenants to meet their own human wills as opposed to the Divine Will. We give you the Protestant revolt of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and onward as exhibit "A" for that. Now, we stand on the threshhold of the end of the next 2,000 increment in time and know that God is planning another recleansing of the earth just as He has promised and as Our Lady is foretelling. Thus, this Advent becomes very, very pertinent and can become even more meaningful and grace-filled if we follow the Church's teachings on prayer, fasting and sacrifice. Like Laetare Sunday in the midst of Lent, we have Gaudete Sunday on the third Sunday of Advent - a time to emphasize joy, as the word connotes, for the redemption of man is imminent. That is what the rose-colored candle represents.
Today, secularism has infiltrated the Christmas season so that it no longer is even called "Christmas" because that would offend others who don't believe in Jesus Christ. Therefore it is called "Winterfest" or "Snow celebration" or some crazy coined word that totally paganizes this wondrous feast and takes away from the true meaning of the season. And, as the years progress, this propaganda oozes into everyone and they begin to truly miss what it is about, bowing to politically correct rubbish so as not to offend the Jews (who have still not recognized Jesus as the Messiah) and their Hannukah celebration, or Moslems or Hindus or even the African-Americans and their recently invented Kwanza festivities. Slowly but surely the real reason for the season is being pushed out of people's minds and hearts. That's why Advent is so very important; to realize why Jesus came and why He is coming again as we say at each Mass, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!" It's also the only time non-Catholic Christians accept the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary whom Catholics venerate year-round through the liturgy and the Holy Rosary. But, if you've talked to a Protestant lately or a "born-again and again and again and again Christian" you'll get their lame argument that Mary had more children and wasn't a virgin. It seems they'll do anything to demean Our Lady's role, unable to comprehend God's Master Plan that the only Tabernacle to contain the Son of God had to be as perfect as possible from being immaculately conceived through her Immaculate Conception, the solemnity of which we celebrate this coming Tuesday, to the undeniable truth that Mary was ever-virgin. The Protestants can quote all the scripture they want, they can try to create summations of the oft-quoted scriptural passage in John 14: 6, "No one comes to the Father, but through Me" in which they assume that means you can't pray to anyone else except Jesus. How wrong they are if they would only read further like the passages in Matthew 11: 27 and Luke 10: 22. As for the bit about Jesus having brothers and sisters, Matthew 12: 49 sums this up nicely. In summary, there is no debate on any of this. God said it, the Church decreed it, end of discussion!
Speaking of "end of discussion," this editorial is just about there. Advent is a time of penance and sacrifice and God has a wonderful way of reminding us of it and our finite humanness. It's called the flu and it has been visited on Americans in droves this time of year. The bug has caught our family and this editor is fighting the effects of the blahs, runs, sorethroat, achiness and cramps. It hit at the very same time last year and, despite getting flu shots this year, we are still very susceptible to these annual reminders of our feebleness. In fact, last year we were down for a week as this editor was bed-bound. This year, I'm resolved to keep the issues going but it isn't easy when one starts feeling dizzy and lightheaded looking at the monitor screen and trying to call upon all the strength possible to persevere with this issue and hit the right keys. So to all out there suffering the same thing, our condolences and get well wishes, but while we're all commiserating and popping the Tylenol and slurping chicken soup, why not offer it all up in penitential sacrifice for the season of Advent. It could be a lot worse when you come down to it. We could all be sitting in Limbo like those poor souls who had to wait 4,000 years did. So let's make something of this Advent season and offer everything to God in reparation for our own sins and the failings of others. Then His coming will mean even more on December 25th and thereafter as we near the new millennium. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can all get through this, but only with His help will we understand why we have the flu during Advent for the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak!