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Prepare or Commend? Gaudete Sunday of Advent

December 15th, 2012, Promulgated by DanielKane

Imagine this. You show up for your birthday party –at the exactly the time you were supposed to, and find the trash can overflowing with bottles, the cake half eaten, people already mingling in the driveway and folks gathering their coats. A minute after you arrive, someone shows up with the 2nd pizza and wings run. People turn to you, say, “oh, yeah, it’s you, umm…happy birthday” and quickly get out the rest of the cake, mumble through Happy Birthday, rip into the cake, and start excusing themselves and leaving before you get the second forkful in your mouth.

How would you feel?

When the celebration starts before you show up, you have to wonder whether the party was about you or about them.

I can’t help thinking that’s what Jesus feels these days – Christmas starting on Halloween, Christmas trees bought before Thanksgiving and dragged to the curb the morning of December 26th can’t thrill Him – and in truth, disrespects him.

This is not a “War on Christmas” rant Church, is a reflection on our appellation of Catholic Christian culture in. First the party, then the hangovera – it’s the way we run our lives, our nation and our Christmas.

When we celebrate Washington or MLK’s birthday, Memorial Day or Independence Day, it doesn’t much matter if it’s the exact date. We simply remember it. It’s a commemoration, an act of remembering some event or the legacy of a monumental person. But we really don’t have to prepare for it. It happens and it’s over.

Waiting for a soldier to return home from war is not like that. Neither is waiting for a child to be born or anticipating marriage. Time is spent in preparation. Getting ready. Getting material things in order for certain, but more importantly, getting emotionally and internally prepared for this watershed event.

You see, soldiers at war, babies and spouses are not just events, they are persons. And these persons will arrive to stay, and change your life. Even if you don’t know how exactly it will change your life, you normally wonder about it, and prepare yourself for those changes. You certainly don’t look forward to getting it over with and back to life as usual – as we do in the Christmas.

Admittedly, being in (and a bit too much of) the world I am a poor example of this.

None the less, we all need to stop and recall that Advent is a time of preparation. It presupposes that there is a reality, a Person, who is coming, and coming to stay. It is true that Christ comes into our lives each day at Mass, and in a myriad of ways. Yet, Advent reminds us to be in a state of perpetual preparation for Christ’s second coming.

But there’s more.

Since it is a preparation for a Person and not the recollection of an idea, it takes time to prepare. We must not start celebrating before the Guest of Honor arrives. That disrespects Him, and also makes us lose out on special graces particular to this Season that we need.

Tune into the liturgy and not so much to the radio. Nothing but Christmas carols since Thanksgiving and business-as-usual on December 26th does not cut it. Let yourself wait, make yourself wait, and then savor the feast all the way to Epiphany and then some.

Taking things slowly helps. A little decorating at a time, not one Saturday where you go whole hog. The liturgy invites us to build a sense of expectation and today’s rose candle is key. Half-way. Almost here. Getting close…

The Venerable former Bishop of Rochester, Archbishop Fulton Sheen often spoke of two philosophies of life; the first I alluded to earlier – First the party and then the hangover. The second is: First the fast and then the feast. The “then” of both philosophies is eternal. We are indeed a “party people” and the most counter-cultural act one can do is keeping the tree up until Epiphany or more radical yet, the Feast of the Presentation – which is when the Pope takes down his tree. Christmas, like Easter is way too big for just one day.

The Church models for us that the fast before the feast is the way to live and that is good, practical, advice. So, Merry Christmas Church and don’t be so Christmased out that Jesus gets a “oh, yeah, you’re here” on the 25th. In order to choose the eternal feast and not the eternal hangover, some fasting is in order.

Advent is half over yet there is still time much to reflect on Who is coming, to whom, and why.

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4 Responses to “Prepare or Commend? Gaudete Sunday of Advent”

  1. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    never heard that +Sheen comment before – I like it.

  2. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Thank you, DanielKane, for a post that informs the mind, fires up the heart and moves the will.

    Frankly, I sense that you have studied (or taught) homiletics and are a gifted writer; if not a talented speaker. As such, you have preached to us and helped tweak our imaginations.

    Good job. Well done.

    This written message is worth reading twice and then using as a spring board to prayerful meditation upon both Old and New Testament Scriptures that picture the comings of the LORD.

    Those Sacred Scriptures and subsequent meditations could indeed “remind us to be in a state of perpetual preparation for Christ’s second coming” as we ‘prepare for the Person’ of Messiah Jesus.

    This post’s author points out that there “is still time to reflect on Who is coming, to whom, and why.”

    Yes, the grace filled season of Advent is a wonderful spiritual opportunity both to refrain from the party (and thus avoid the hangover) so as to first fast and then really enjoy the feast.

    Thank you again, DanielKane, for helping all of us keep on track and for reminding all of us how blessed we are to be graced with Catholic faith in the Son of God Made Man. For it is HIS Catholic Church which “models for us how the fast before the feast is the way to live”.

    The next time someone asks me if I am ready for Christmas, I hope to give an answer that will blow his mind with inspiration from ‘Prepare or Commend? Gaudete Sunday of Advent’.

  3. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Maybe it is time for our cardinals, bishops, and priests and laity to assert the primacy of the Church calandar and activities in our churches over the secular calendar of activities!!! One of the things that is being lost in the radical secularization of our society is the celebration of Thanksgiving !!!!!!!! It actually exhorts all of us Americans to pray in gratitude for what God has given us. And we are loosing it to the misguided secular generic “HOLIDAY” schedule.


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