It Ends, It Begins: The First Sunday of Advent

30 Nov

 Behold, I am coming soon (Rev. 22.7).

Do you like movie trailers? I do, although my family would tell you otherwise.

I admit that when we sit down together to watch a DVD, I’m usually the one who is anxious to skip through the commercials so that we can get right to the “feature presentation” (as they say). And when we have a chance to go to an actual theater to catch a new release? It’s true that I like to arrive late 1834361in order to miss the interminable trailers that precede the main event – tacking on ten minutes to the posted showtime used to be enough, but fifteen is more realistic these days.

All that being said, it’s nonetheless true that I do enjoy watching movie trailers. I only wish they actually trailed – which is the origin of the word, did you know that? The earliest sneak previews were appended after a feature film was over, not before it began. That way, the folks in the theater – the people who forked over for tickets and seats – weren’t forced to sit through a bunch of ads before they got to see what they’d paid to see. “First things, first,” was the original (short-lived) idea: The main attraction appropriately took precedence, and then those who elected to stick around could look ahead to what was coming up.

The First Sunday of Advent is like that I think. I mean, today was almost like an old-fashioned trailer that essentially gave us a peek of what lies ahead, but it came on the heels of a main event: The liturgical year just concluded.

And what a main event it was!

There was the opening credits and anticipation leading up to Christmas and the Incarnation last December, followed by a period of Ordinary Time that gave us a chance to catch our breath and take in what had just occurred: God himself becoming a baby!

Then, pretty quickly it was on to Lent and an intense time of interior preparation – sprucing up our souls and looking forward to the literal crux of our salvation. After several weeks of that, Holy Week arrived and we witnessed the horrible drama of that divine baby from Bethlehem, now the grown-up Jesus, enduring a trial and execution that was directly tied to our own sin – my own sin.liturgseason

Another time of waiting followed – this one much briefer, only about a day – and thereupon…an explosion! A shock and a shove, as Jesus rose from the grave – can you believe it? Yes, it’s really true! That stone dead God-man was alive again, bulldozing his way back into our story and giving us hope of heaven.

An event like that deserves a party, and it got one – fifty days of celebration until the feast of Pentecost. After that, it was more Ordinary Time and lots of green – the color of plants and the ordinary growth they undergo. That kind of growth takes time and patience, just as any farmer or gardener will tell you: Water and fertilizer, tending and protecting occupy their time, although there is little sign of the flourishing going on beneath the soil. It’s happening all the same though – just like it does in us throughout the quieter times of the church year.

Finally, November, and the liturgy grinds down to the end. There was lots of imagery of the end of the world this past month, things coming to a finish – which they did, quite literally and spectacularly, on the Feast of Christ the King, a day honoring Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth, and one directing our attention forward to the Second Coming.

But, even then, we weren’t done quite yet. There’s was a week of closing credits, as it were – the days between Christ the King and the start of Advent – which led up to the very last expression of the liturgical year, the Saturday before the First Advent Sunday.

Now, that last Saturday morning of the church year – the very last image on the liturgical screen before all went dark – do you know what’s amazing? As Fr. Martelli pointed out ADVENT CANDLEat Mass yesterday, the Gospel reading that day, the last of the year, basically parallels the one from today, the first. In fact, there’s more than a parallel – there’s actually a repetition. Here, listen: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy,” St. Luke had Jesus saying on Saturday, and “be vigilant at all times.” And then, today, St. Mark presented Jesus saying pretty much the same thing: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

What’s going on here? It’s like the very last scene of the church year yesterday led into today’s liturgical trailer that previewed…more of the same!

Why?

You know the answer, I’m sure. It’s because the new liturgical year is more of the same, and that “same” is Jesus himself who’s always showing up at unexpected times. For Christians, there’s only one show, and it’s perpetually new. As St. Patrick put it, it’s “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me; Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me; Christ on my right, Christ on my left,” basically Christ all over the place. He’s the director, cast, and crew; he’s the dialogue, the plot, and the script; he’s the special effects, the soundtrack, and the cinematography.

The whole shooting match, the whole shebang! And we always have to be ready to receive him, not just at Christmas!

So, yes, take a deep breath – one screening has past; the next is just about to start. Sit back and stay awake: The adventure is about to begin all over again.

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One Response to “It Ends, It Begins: The First Sunday of Advent”

  1. Cyn Haas December 1, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    LOVELY! Thank you Rick!! Happy Advent! 🙂

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