Advent Reflections

Resources and Reflections for 2019

 

As we come to the end of our season of Advent for 2019, we are mindful of how short it has been but there remains time for us to contemplate the great mystery of this season. As Pope Francis reminds us, Advent is a time to be ‘mindful and pray’.

To help us with our spiritual preparation this Advent, we offer four personal reflections – one for each week of Advent – on the important themes of this beautiful season. Each reflection is easy to use in groups OR personally.  Each reflection gives us the opportunity to pray, to ponder and to listen to our speakers reflect on our understanding of the season. Some questions help us to go deeper, personally or as a group. We suggest taking one a week, but if you have a parish retreat day these could provide the materials you might want to use for your time together

From Pope Francis Angelus 2nd December 2018

 

Today, Advent begins, the liturgical time which prepares us for Christmas, inviting us to lift our gaze and open our hearts to welcome Jesus. During Advent we do not just live in anticipation of Christmas; we are also called to rekindle the anticipation of the glorious return of Christ — when he will return at the end of time — preparing ourselves, with consistent and courageous choices, for the final encounter with him. We remember Christmas, we await the glorious return of Christ, and also our personal encounter: the day in which the Lord will call.

 

We are grateful to Gavin D’Costa, Laura Stotesbury, Fr. Tom Dubois and Sarah Richards for their reflective contributions which will help us to engage more fully with Advent and its rich themes.

Previous week’s Reflections can be found below

Week Four: Sarah Richards

Advent Reflection Time

The Hidden Life of St Joseph

Week One: Dr Gavin D’Costa

Advent Reflection Time

The Challenge of the Annunciation

Week Two: Laura Stotesbury

Advent Reflection Time

A Time for Peace

Week Three: Fr Tom Dubois

Advent Reflection Time

Entering the Silence

Praying with the Advent Wreath

One of the most iconic symbols of Advent is that of the Advent Wreath. It is a beautiful symbol of the eternity of Christ and his presence in our lives. As a symbol, however, apart from being lit on each of the Sundays of Advent, the deeper meaning held within each of those candles is often lost or unacknowledged. This is a pity because there is a richness in the wreath which offers a real opportunity for reflecting in a prayerful way this beautiful season of preparation for Christmas. Before we look at how we might use our Advent Wreath for a time of reflection let us remind ourselves of its origins.

The Advent Wreath was first used as Christian devotion in the Middle Ages. Its design comes from the customs of the pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian cultures, where candles and greenery were used as symbols of light and life during the dark and cold winter. The Advent Wreath has always been a circular evergreen wreath with four or five candles, three purple, one rose and sometimes a white candle for Christmas Day placed in the centre of the wreath.

The candles symbolise the light of Christ coming into the world. The evergreen symbolises renewal and the circular shape the completeness of God. The candle colours come from the traditional liturgical colours of Advent, (purple and rose) and Christmas (white). Each candle is lit on the appropriate Sunday of Advent and then the candles can be lit each day according to the week. Overtime each candle was given a name and linked to a particular part of the Advent story.

Candle 1. Hope (purple)
Candle 2. Peace (purple)
Candle 3. Joy (rose)
Candle 4. Love (purple)

Praying with a focus on each candle can really help us to reflect as we journey through Advent. Just taking fifteen or twenty minutes each day to pray can enrich our appreciation of the season which so often can be overtaken by the need to shop endlessly, bake, send out invites etc. Simply giving a short period of time allows us to breathe and refocus on why we are doing all this preparation in the first place.
What follows is a format that this prayer time might take and some reflection questions for each of the weeks; it can be done as a family, a parish community or as an individual.

ADVENT REFLECTION

Fr Richard McKay is a member of the Chaplaincy Team at St Brendan’s Catholic Sixth Form College. He offered this reflection at their All College Advent Assembly. Perhaps it might help your Advent Journey?

In a few days time some of us here are going to vote in the General Election. I know most of you do not yet have the vote. But this Election will shape the future development of the nations of the United Kingdom. We all have a sacred responsibility to reflect and act to shape that future – and not only for the UK. With the Climate Control Conference taking place in Madrid at the moment we are all being confronted with the urgency to take strong and decisive action now to secure the integrity of our planet for future generations.

What has this got to do with the Christian Season of Advent? If you think Advent is about Christmas Lights and an excess of spending and partying, you are wrong. It is about what is our vision for the future? What responsibility are we going to take to shape a future where the dignity of every human person is safeguarded? Are we going to build a world free from poverty? Are we going to find ways to bring an end to armed conflict and replace weapons of destruction with tools of creativity? Are we going to change our life-style from one that exploits our Earth to one that lives in Communion with our beautiful and fragile planet and its creatures?

In the very first pages of the Bible we hear a story that tells us that God is entrusting the Earth to our care – not giving it to us to exploit and pillage! A few pages on we hear of some sort of prophet called ‘Balaam’ – he is described as ‘a man with far-seeing eyes’.This Advent is a call for all of us to be ‘men and women of far-seeing eyes’! Later prophets, like Isaiah, constantly challenged the people of their own time and us as well – will we build peace instead of waging war; will we free people of slavery and injustice, instead of always seeking our own quick profits; will we at last learn how to live in harmony and friendship with the planet, protecting the Forests and the animals.

The word ‘Advent’ means ‘the Coming’ – how we are to build the future towards the moment when all creation will radiate the Glory of God’s Love., for that s the goal of evolution.  As we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus

2000 years ago, we must decide to bring a new kind of world to birth … before it is too late. A world where the voices of the poor, the cries of those on the margins of society and the groanings of our wounded planet are listened to and allowed to rise to the top of every personal agenda and every political programme.

The birth of Jesus celebrates the infinite dignity and worth of every human person; so this child born homeless in a stable asks why are there over 120,000 children homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas in 2019 Britain; so this child who had to escape the tyranny of a vicious dictator and seek asylum in a foreign country begs us to find room in our hearts and our land for more of the 67 million refugees world-wide – and especially the unaccompanied child refugees; so this child who grew to become the Universal Brother teaching us we are all one family cries out to us to break down all walls of division, demolish the ideologies of racism, anti-semitism and prejudice.

How will you celebrate the birth of this Child? Will you dare to catch the  Advent vision of a world filled with freedom, equality and human compassion: filled with a truly Divine Love.

Maybe you cannot vote in this General Election, but the future of our world is most surely in your hands. Don’t close your eyes and refuse to see; don’t close your ears and refuse to hear; don’t walk by on the other side while humanity dies and the Earth weeps. But harness your energy, your education and your passion and bring a new world to birth! … starting NOW!