Dear Brothers & Sisters,
I have meditated a lot about this particular bulletin letter. I would like to reflect with you the importance of the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, not just as our patroness, our parish feast day, but as it helps us to live this Advent with Mary waiting for Christ. I hope the Lord inspires me to convey His message to you.
God is always the source and goal of every action. Therefore, at the beginning He created us, and at the end of times, we are called to be with him. In this Divine Plan for our Salvation, although God does not have to respect the laws of nature, He chooses to respect our Freedom. After the sin of disobedience of Adam and Eve, it was necessary an act of the will of another man and woman to reverse that original curse. There appears the figure of Mary and Jesus. From the third chapter of Genesis, God prefigured the coming of Jesus to destroy the serpent who waged war in the children of man. However, it was necessary the consent of a woman in order to conceive this child. This woman was not a "simple" woman, she was the one chosen by God to welcome the Messiah in her womb. In that election, God gave a special grace to her, which is to be born without Original Sin. In other words Mary was conceived as pure/immaculate (this is what is celebrated at the Immaculate Conception). Even though she was "blessed among all women", she had the power to choose between welcoming Christ or not. When the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, and announced that she was chosen to "conceive and bear a child", she made a willful choice to do so ("be done to me according to your will”). This event is in a way not a singular historical event that is detached from our reality. God always wants to visit us and be made one with us. He has also chosen us to bear his Son in our being. But what is our response in front of that? Are we expecting the Messiah, or better said, are we ready for the Messiah?
Advent is a time of vigilance. The word Advent comes from the latin ad venire, which is translated as "the coming/arrival", or even as "the one who is coming". Christologically/Theologically speaking, "advenire" makes reference to the Greek word "parousia" (term used to refer to the second coming of Christ). Therefore, "Advent" means the second coming of Christ. Often it is lived as a preparation for Christmas, but that is a misunderstanding of it. Advent is a time of preparation in expectation of the coming of Christ. The first weeks of Advent, all the readings are directed towards the "end of times," the return of Christ, or the final judgment. Only the last 9 days are directed towards Christmas, but on a eschatolical way. The novena of Christmas is a help and a reminder that the return of the Messiah is not just an empty promise, but it will be fulfilled as it was 2,000 years ago. It is for that reason that we have the time of Advent, as a time of preparation, analogously Lent is also a time of preparation.
Now that we understand Advent, we can look again into the figure of Mary. By the fact that her father Joachim was a holy man of prayer, Mary was raised very close to the Lord, both in her prayers and in her closeness to the word of God. She was open to listen to the word of God, to receive His graces, as if she was expecting the Lord to appear to her one day. All the prophecies of the Old Testament had to be fulfilled, and she was assured of that. So much so that when the Angel appeared to her, according to the Fathers of the Church, she knew exactly what was happening. Mary is the figure of the person who not only expects Jesus, but also welcomes Him, and accompanies Him in her life. On this occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, WE ARE INVITED TO GATHER FOR THREE DAYS (Dec 5-7 at 7pm) TO PREPARE OURSELVES FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST AS MARY DID. As we celebrate Mary chosen to be born without Original Sin, we are reminded that we were also chosen by God, and Jesus wants to be born in us. Our Triduum this year will reflect on the Mysteries of the Rosary, that is, how the coming of Christ was joyful, sorrowful, and glorious. Then on Thursday, Dec 8th, we will have a celebration with a Trilingual Mass, also starting at 7pm. In case someone cannot make it to the evening mass, we will also have masses at 7:30am and 12:10pm as it is a day of obligation.
Let's pray for Mary's intercession that we may be ready when the Lord comes!
Father Steven Clemence