Not a few posted on Facebook that their Christmas Tree had just been mounted. Filipinos have certainly embraced this predominantly Western symbol of Christmas (Christmas Tree is originally of snows.) the Season would not be complete without one. Unlike most countries, the Christmas season lasts unusually long in the Philippines, with the commercial marketing of the season beginning on the first of the “ber” months – September.Lights, carols, Santa figures, trees, parols are external expressions of our enthusiastic devotion to all things Christmas. In Palawan vogue, we have even a month-long celebration of all these with “Pista Na, Pasko Pa” fanfare. While there is really nothing that prohibits such, but the tree, as its name also suggests, is already Christmas-y. Yet, we are still in a privileged time to prepare for Christmas. Advent Season, that is. Hence, Right and Beauty hints that one thing in particular, instead of a tree, a crown must be in the order first – Advent Wreath before Christmas Tree.
Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming”. Advent Season then becomes a preparation for The One who is to come on Christmas season. Humanly speaking, when something grand is coming a modest preparation is a manifestation of excitement. When somebody very important is coming a decent preparation is an expression of respect. Advent season then, becomes a time to be ready for the One who is to come again at the end of time, and a remembrance of His first coming, His birth. It is a period of directing our thoughts and actions to the coming of the Savior, an event that is far beyond grand and extraordinarily important. Ergo, time to prepare and be eventually prepared must be called forth since we only fail if we failed to prepare.
Advent-ic preparation is replete with symbolisms. It is barefaced in the Advent Wreath itself and other subdued effects in liturgical celebrations. The four candles stand for the time of preparation – four Sundays. It encourages both patience and expectation. The Advent motif is purple. This is the same color that priests wear during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Quite subduedly it teaches that part of preparation is repentance and coming back to God’s fold. At Mass, the “Gloria”‘ is not sung or recited. This speaks of the drama that such is only sung when the Savior would finally arrive. Furthermore, the “official” plea of Advent has been “Come, Lord Jesus!”This is the cry of the “people who walk in darkness”: those who are poor and the oppressed, the broken-hearted and those who are of weak knees, of the blind and the mute, of the abandoned and of those who are far from home…. them and us, implore together “Maranatha!”… “Halina, Hesus, halina!”
As He is coming indeed, what must we do to be truly prepared?
How many of us have hit the stores struggling to find that perfect “something sweet”, “something funny”, or “something embarrassing to carry in public”? We ask ourselves if we have done even half as much to prepare for the Lord.
Pope Francis reminds everyone “to enlarge our horizons”. “Advent is a time to reflect on the contrast between our daily routine and the unexpected coming of the Lord…. to further dimensions, to give meaning to everyday occurrences.” Further, the Holy Father invites all to be sober, to keep things at proper perspective. Meaning, that we may not be “dominated by the things of this world”. It goes without saying that the preparation of the season must not be confined to material things, expensive externalities and fancy parties. Otherwise, we will miss the whole point of preparation which is to encounter our Savior.
Too, Advent could be that time to look at the bigger picture and to gaze at the greater scheme of life. Mother Teresa exemplifies this idea when she said, “If you judge people, you will have no time to love them”. Obviously, love is that bigger picture than judgement. Another, “God does not require us to be successful only to be faithful.” In the greater scheme, to be faithful is more fulfilling than to be successful.
Finally, what must the disposition of Advent be? Of the the four candles around the Advent Wreath, there is one which is not of violet color. It is pink. Needless to say, this color expresses joy. At Advent, it is expectant joy. It heralds the real spirit of the fulfillment of waiting. We are joyful because of a promise. We are more than joyful because of its fulfillment. We are immensely joyful because of the One who brings the promise to fulfillment. In fact, St. Teresa of Avila, in expectant joy, desired that Advent must remain perpetually in her when she said, “I want to keep Advent in my soul, that is, a continual longing and waiting for this great mystery of God becoming man.”
Up and ’til now, Advent is still with us. Christmas is yet before us. Just as the tree was already up, so must the crown be since it is also significant … and equally important.