Happy New Year!!! Today marks the beginning of the cycle of the ecclesiastical or liturgical year, the sacred time in which we are exposed to the integrity of the mystery of Christ, and find the opportunity to again rediscover the true face of Jesus, the person of Christ, the Word made flesh that now dwells among us. In this journey through chronological time, the daily, weekly and monthly cycles are touched by the Holy Spirit, sacramentally becoming a Year of Grace, God’s time.
In the celebration of the Liturgical Year, we are made present to the entire Mystery of Christ. The prayer of the Church contemplates the Person of Jesus. In Biblical reading, prayer, chant and sacred song, His person is woven into the complexity of our lives, that we may rediscover Him, that we may reorient ourselves to Him, that we may let Him speak to us on His own terms.
The celebration of the Sacred Liturgy will therefore be decisive for my ongoing conversion and adhesion to Christ. It will teach and change me. Christ will become contemporary to me and foster in my person his virtues and attitudes.
In this Holy Advent season the Church prepares us to enter the mystery of God becoming man, the descent of Almighty God into the world taking our nature, our humanity from the Blessed Virgin Mary. No longer dwelling in a temple of stone, He will now dwell in the living stones; the living temple of His Holy People made His Mystical Body, the Church. Advent prepares us therefore for Christmas when the human family with the host of Angels will learn right worship and adore the living God, the Child of Bethlehem, hidden in the adorableness of an infant, that love might reveal itself in faith.
The Sacred Liturgy of the church involves us in the Mystery of Christ right now. It is primarily the prayer of Christ. He is its actor and true High Priest, living the Father’s glory yet descending to our poverty and need. In the Advent Season we walk with the prophets of the Old Testament anxious for the coming of the Messiah, but critically in the certainty of knowing the Lord has indeed visited His people and redeemed us, we are preparing for His future coming, a future meeting with Him.
The Advent readings and prayers of the Mass form in us our sense of expectation, truly bringing us closer to the event of His Second Coming. Every year that passes brings us closer to this event. So Advent may be a practice run or a dress rehearsal for the coming of our God to Judge the living and the dead. What must I do in the here and now to prepare for this reality?
The answer is to let Christ be born and formed and fashioned in me, as he was in the flesh of Our Lady. A formation that begins in loving and committed faith. St Bernard once said; ‘Christ must be born in you; you must become Bethlehem of Judah.’ He will be born in us if we accept our need of him. So now we must reflect, what are the ways he is born in us? I propose three practical ways to allow Christ be formed in us:
Daily prayer including the Rosary and prayerful reading of Scripture especially the texts of the Advent readings
Encountering Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance, this is the way God heals me of sin and prepares me for my particular judgement, bestowing the peace that the world can never give.
Finally preparing for Holy Communion and making a conscious thanksgiving in every Mass that I celebrate
In this New Year of Grace , there is a new opportunity to begin again, to rediscover Jesus. May God who began His good work in us bring it to fulfilment.