New Church Year – A Season of Hope

First Sunday of Advent

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This weekend begins a new church year. Catholics will gather in churches tastefully decorated in the the royal burgundy color of advent (blue in the U.S.), and pray in hope as they light the first candle on an advent wreath. The celebration stands in stark contrast to the fireworks, champagne, and parties of January first. To an outsider, I suspect, such a celebration might seem overly subdued, if not meager. By worldly standards some might say that there is really no celebration at all, but for the faithful the first Sunday of Advent surpasses all that this world can offer.

Each year, as the candle is lit, cherished hymns such as ” O Come Divine Messiah’ and ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ are sung, and worshippers become intensely aware of what it means to be Christian. The past, present, and future mesh in a sense of oneness, and the loving creator of all inspires remembrance, permeates the present with love and hope, and facilitates a joyful, hopeful yearning and prayer for God’s return. Each year the flickering little flame of one little candle captures our imagination and becomes far more meaningful and comforting than a night sky filled with loud booms and cascades of sparkles from the most awesome fireworks display. This ‘New Year’ celebrates the spiritual and eternal, and invites us to remember what God has done, what God is doing, and to yearn for Jesus, the face of God, to return in glory. The Church New Year is all about God’s love, mercy, justice, and righteousness, and our eternal destiny. We who are made in the image and likeness of God. Let us Give thanks and rejoice, as we journey through Advent to Christmas.

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This Advent Pope Benedict published an Encyclical, entitled, “In Hope, We are Saved,” to help us appreciate the great hope that Christianity inspires. Link to Encyclical

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