Living Advent well

By Fr. Angelo Casimiro, MIC 

The Holy Season of Advent has begun! 

I remember going to Sunday Mass during Advent as a young boy, waiting in anticipation as a new candle was lit on the Advent wreath each week, because I knew in my heart that Jesus was coming soon as a little baby at Christmas. As a priest, I still look forward to the First Sunday of Advent when we light the first candle which signals the beginning of the Advent season. 

I love the rich meaning of the Advent wreath, which is made up of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four candles. Traditionally, there are three violet candles and one rose candle. The rose candle is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent, and its color anticipates our Christmas joy, announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon of the Liturgy: “rejoice,” or in Latin, “gaudete.” That is why the Third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday, and the priest traditionally wears rose-colored vestments. 

In order to better prepare our hearts and live this Advent well, we should turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to intercede for us and accompany us on our Advent journey. Our Lady was there for the first Advent, of course, and then for the intermediate Advent of the conversion, salvation, and sanctification of her spiritual children. Finally, she will be there for the final Advent of the Second Coming. Pope St. John Paul II said, “In this journey of expectation and hope that is Advent, the Ecclesial Community is identified more closely than ever with the Most Holy Virgin. May it be she, the Virgin of expectation, who helps us to open our hearts to the One who, by His coming among us, brings the priceless gift of peace to all humanity.” 

We need to adopt Our Lady’s practice of pondering the things of God in our heart. During Advent, try to set aside some time each day to read a few verses from the Bible, especially from the Gospels. Saint Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. One of the ways the Lord speaks to us is through Holy Scripture. Choose a Scripture verse that has a special meaning for you, and meditate on the words until a particular word or phrase hits you. That may be the Lord trying to speak to you. 


In order to better prepare our hearts and live this Advent well, we should turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask her to intercede for us and accompany us on our Advent journey. Our Lady was there for the first Advent, of course, and then for the intermediate Advent of the conversion, salvation, and sanctification of her spiritual children.


Another way of living Advent well is by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The best Christmas gift you can ever give yourself is to go to Confession, especially if you haven’t gone for a while. I like to describe Confession like this: If we take the time every day to bathe and clean our bodies, then it’s just as important that we also take the time to go to Confession and clean our souls. When you confess your sins and the priest gives you absolution, you’re starting anew. Not only are you forgiven your sins, but God also gives you the grace to help you resist temptations and not sin again. Remember that God’s mercy is bigger than any sin you can ever commit. 

During Lent, we usually fast from good things like chocolate, soda, or movies. In the season of Advent, it’s also good to make some sort of sacrifice for the Lord. It doesn’t always have to be something material. Maybe it could be giving up complaining, gossiping, or talking badly about other people. Or maybe you can give some of your time or resources to help other people who are in need. That is what Mary did when she found out that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist. There are many people who are alone and lonely at this time of year, especially in nursing homes, hospitals, homeless shelters, and prisons. The Church always encourages doing corporal works of mercy because when we serve others, we are serving Christ Himself. 

Another way to prepare for Advent is to have a forgiving heart. The Lord forgives our sins in Confession; shouldn’t we forgive others, as well? It goes against our fallen human nature to forgive someone who has hurt us, and so that is when we need supernatural help. Life is too short to carry around grudges. Unforgiveness hardens your heart. If you have a hardened heart, then you cannot love other people. And if you cannot love other people, how can you love God? 

One final suggestion: If you aren’t already going to daily Mass, try to go one other time during the week in addition to Sunday Mass. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith, since we truly receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. The same Jesus who humbled Himself by coming to us as a little baby on Christmas Day continues to humble Himself by coming to us during Mass in the bread and wine that is changed into His Body and Blood. 

In the Filipino culture, during Advent we observe Simbang Gabi (meaning “Night Mass”), which is a devotional nine-day series of Masses celebrated during the final days leading up to Christmas. In the Philippines, the Simbang Gabi Masses are held daily from Dec. 16 to 24 at different times from as early as 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. In the U.S., the Masses are held at other times in the evening. 

Following the example of the Blessed Mother, let us keep our hearts and minds recollected this Advent season. Let us wait with an expectant kind of longing, knowing that Jesus will soon come into our hearts, as we once again wait in darkness for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the World.  

Father Angelo Casimiro, MIC is House Superior at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio.

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