It’s that time of year. Daily reminders of how many shopping days remain before Christmas fill some with dread, others with relief. Folks enjoy, endure or try to ignore another season of “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Baby” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Some of my neighbors have deployed their Christmas displays. So have we, thanks to my son. It’s part of our Advent preparations.
We’re getting ready for Christmas, looking back at the first time Jesus came; and ahead to when our Lord returns.
I gather that Pope Innocent III standardized those colors, just over eight centuries back.
Then the Council of Trent updated the rules in 1570, and that’s another topic.
Purple’s been a ‘royal’ color for at least two millennia, and that brings me to why Advent is a big deal.1
We’re looking back about two millennia, to when the Son of God became one of us. And we’re looking ahead to when Jesus will come back.
About that, this isn’t another of those ‘End Times Bible Prophecies.’
We’ve known that our Lord is returning ever since he left. (Acts 1:11)
And some of us have tried second-guessing God the Father.
I don’t see the point, myself.
“‘But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….”
I get the strong impression that information regarding the Second Coming is available on a need-to-know basis. And if the Son of God didn’t need to know, I certainly don’t.
Recapping, Advent is a big deal because it’s when we prepare for Christmas.
Christmas is a big deal because it’s when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
And that’s a big deal because Jesus is the Son of God:
“…God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father….”
(What We Believe, Nicene creed, USCCB)
But we’re not and we don’t, so we do.
I’d better explain that.
We’re not perfect, and neither is our world. But we’re not utterly depraved and this is not the worst of all possible worlds.
We’re “very good” too, but we’re wounded. We’re dealing with consequences made by the first of us. We lost the harmony between ourselves, this world and God. But we didn’t stop being human. (Catechism, 385-412)
Letting ‘what I want’ outvote ‘what God says’ was a bad idea.
Along with the rest of humanity, I’ve inherited a world that got off to a bad start. But I’m not personally responsible for that bad decision, neither are you, and humanity is not rotten to the core. (Catechism, 405)
We did and do, however, need help. None of us can lift ourselves into Heaven by our bootstraps. (Catechism, 406)
That’s why Jesus came. Our nature has been wounded. We have fallen. We are, in a sense, dead. Jesus came to heal us, raise us and restore our life. (Catechism, 457)
Offhand, I’d say that celebrating the start of our Lord’s mission makes sense.
So does remembering our standing orders.
“‘Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks….
“…You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.'”
“He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.
“But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'”
Our Lord’s return has been “imminent” for two millennia. (Catechism, 673)
So, how long should we wait? As I see it, as long as it takes.
But I’m also a Catholic whose interests include history and cosmology. That’s helped me develop a sense of scale.
I willingly accept that, from God’s viewpoint, there’s little difference between a minute, a day and a millennium.
“But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”
(2 Peter 3:8)
“A thousand years in your eyes
are merely a day gone by,
Before a watch passes in the night,”
We’re still passing along what Jesus told us. And we’re still waiting for our Lord’s return.
I’ve talked about this before. And probably will again.
Like I said, it’s a big deal.
- “Joy and Shadow, Free Will and Something Silly”
(December 12, 2020)
- “Taking to the (Digital) Streets: Advent and Social Media”
(December 9, 2020 )
- “Boston Charlie, Partridges in Pear Trees and Me”
(November 28, 2020)
- “Advent: Our Long Watch”
(December 3, 2017)
- “Gabriel, Joseph, and Mary”
(December 18, 2016)
- What is Advent?
Sunday, November 28, 2021 — Friday, December 24, 2021; Liturgical Year; USCCB
- “Born to the Purple”
Debra Wilson, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
- “What do liturgical colors mean?”
Katie Scott, The Arlington Catholic Jerald (November 19, 2014)
- “Purple Pasts: Color Codification in the Ancient World”
Charlene Elliott, Law & Social Inquiry (Winter 2008) via JSTOR