Today is the first Sunday of Advent in the year of Our Lord 2013, and we are still waiting. What are we waiting for, and why? The Lord has come; the Lord has redeemed us on the Cross; so why do we begin again this annual cycle of reading the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah? Are we play-acting, pretending to wait for that which is already here? Of course not. We are doing two important things. First, we are entering into liturgical anamnesis — a remembrance which is more than a mere recalling of events. It would be more accurate to call it a participation in those events despite the distances of time and place that separate us from them. We are indeed awaiting our Saviour, and each of us knows that there are whole areas of our lives that need his redeeming touch. Second, we are telling the story of how we came to be, and story-telling, the narrative of our past, is an important part of our identity as Christians. It is how we make sense of the world and our part in it.
As we shall see, Advent divides into two unequal parts, each of them beautifully expressed by the two Prefaces of the Mass. The first Preface of Advent, used from today until 16 December, concentrates on Christ’s coming again in glory at the end of time, and the hope his promise brings:
‘ . . . he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.’
That is how we begin Advent: with hope, watching and waiting for the day that will bring the realisation of all our hopes, and not ours only, but those of all the world.
May you have a blessed Advent.