Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
Happy New Year! This Sunday we begin a new liturgical year. And we begin it by praying for the end of the world.
In the First Reading this Sunday we hear Isaiah beseeching God: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you” (Isaiah 64:1). In the Second Reading Paul reminds us God has given us everything we need to persevere to the end: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7–8). And in the Gospel Christ warns us to be vigilant so that we will not be caught unprepared to meet him: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming… May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (Mark 13:35–36).
But wait—isn’t Advent about getting ready for Christmas? Certainly. But our preparation for and celebration of Christ’s coming in history at Christmas are also meant to focus our attention on the need to prepare our hearts for his coming again in glory. Advent is just as much about the end of the world as it is about Christmas. Through the prayers, readings, and music that the Church offers us in this season we enter into Israel’s long, dark wait for the Messiah. In doing so, we renew our vigilance in watching and praying for Christ’s second coming—whether we will experience that coming individually at the moment of our death or with the rest of the world still alive at the end of time.
One beautiful tradition to help us answer Advent’s two-fold call to preparation and vigilance every day during the season is the Christmas Anticipation Prayer, also known as the St. Andrew’s Christmas novena. The “novena” (although it has nothing to do with the number nine) begins on November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, and is traditionally prayed 15 times every day until Christmas:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
[here mention your request]
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
In praying this simple prayer over and over in the days leading up to Christmas, laying our deepest desires before our King as we meditate upon the hour and moment of his birth, we are invited to enter into the profound mystery of Christmas with our whole being—mind and heart and soul. And as we enter more fully into this mystery through prayer, we prepare to receive Christ anew in joy at Christmas, while also obeying his command to be watchful for his coming again.
The world right now is cold and dark—both physically and spiritually. As the days get shorter and the weather colder (maybe—Colorado weather is always full of surprises), we begin to prepare our homes and hearts to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World in history and to welcome him when he comes again in glory at the end of time.
May we pray and prepare well, using this season of Advent not as an excuse to cut loose and get a head-start on Christmas celebrations, but as a time for a little more silence, a little more prayer, and a little more peace, as we get ready to celebrate the hour and moment of Christ’s birth and to welcome him when he comes again.
Do you want to go deeper with Advent this year?
Join us for our brand-new three-part online series, Advent with the Director.