December letter from Priest Director of Radio Maria England, Fr. Sam Randall
Written by Radio Maria England on 02/12/2020
We have now begun our Advent journey but what is Advent about?
Advent is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year but for some this season can provide all sorts of challenges. Advent, as we all know, is dominated by our preparations for Christmas celebrations but it is also a penitential season which is why purple is the liturgical colour and traditionally ornamentation and flowers are removed from our churches. In contrast to the frugality and austerity of our places of worship offices, shops, and homes are adorned with wonderful decorations and this is a period for parties and celebrations. With all the celebrations and decorations Advent does not feel very ‘penitential’.
Perhaps the real challenge of Advent comes from its two-fold focus and the tension that exists in the readings between fulfilment and longing and between looking forward with hope and looking back in wonder. ‘Advent’ is from the Latin word ‘Adventus’ which means ‘coming’ and at Advent we remember both the coming in the future of our Lord as Judge (Matt 24:27; 1 Cor 15:23; 2 Thess. 2:8) and also the Lord’s first coming two thousand years ago as a child at Bethlehem (Matt 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20). Advent then has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas and as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.
We have all got our favourite Advent hymns and Christmas carols. Last year I was not able to sing or hear my favourite Advent hymn which is all about waiting expectation. The hymn is called O come, O come, Emmanuel and I am sure that you know it? It was originally written in Latin and dates from the ninth century. The hymn’s melody dates from the 15th Century France although the composer is unknown. In the hymn the people of God are held in exile and they cry out to the Lord for deliverance. Each verse has a different title for Christ. In verse three Jesus is described as the key of David:
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
May we spend these holy days of Advent in prayer, penance, and hope, with our eyes fixed firmly on Christ as we long for his advent among us.
Father Sam Randall
Priest Director, Radio Maria England