Today’s two sections preface the specifics that follow (98-105) for the season prior to Christmas. First, some definitions:
96. Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope:
• waiting-memory of the first, humble coming of the Lord in our mortal flesh; waiting-supplication for his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge;
• conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3,2);
• joyful hope that the salvation already accomplished by Christ (cf. Rm 8, 24-25) and the reality of grace in the world, will mature and reach their fulness, thereby granting us what is promised by faith, and “we shall become like him for we shall see him as he really is” (1 John 3,2).
This is as good a summary of Advent I’ve seen–outside of the poetic. The Scriptures addressing Christ’s coming are not cited here, but are known enough to most readers here. The conversion and renewal aspects are a tradition. Not quite the same tenor as Lent, but significant and substantial nonetheless.
The present reality is that Christ has already come, and has already offered salvation. Those passages of hope are well placed throughout Advent as a reminder for those inclined to discouragement. They are also fitting for the final days before Christmas–the “O” days, plus the fourth Sunday.
97. Popular piety is particularly sensitive to Advent, especially when seen as the memory of the preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Christian people are deeply conscious of the long period of expectation that preceded the birth of our Saviour. The faithful know that God sustained Israel’s hope in the coming of the Messiah by the prophets.
I think this assessment is spot-on. If Catholics know the Scriptures at all, they are relatively familiar with the passages that anticipate and celebrate the Messiah.
Popular piety is not unaware of this extraordinary event. Indeed, it is awestruck at the prospect of the God of glory taking flesh in the womb of the humble and lowly Virgin Mary. The faithful are particularly sensitive to the difficulties faced by the Virgin Mary during her pregnancy, and are deeply moved by the fact that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary, just as she was about to give birth to the Christ child (cf Lk 2,7).
Various expressions of popular piety connected with Advent have emerged throughout the centuries. These have sustained the faith of the people, and from one generation to the next, they have conserved many valuable aspects of the liturgical season of Advent.
Also true. If cultural customs of questionable religious value have overwhelmed Christmas, Advent still has a fairly clear field for itself. The alternative is shopping to extremes, and really: who needs to do that?
We’ll get to the specifics of Advent in the next several days. If you need to access the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy it is online at the Vatican site.
I’d suggest also that Advent offers themes that can be incorporated into our understanding of the offices and liturgies for the dead.