As we begin the new liturgical year and enter into the holy season of Advent, let us perhaps adopt and sacralise the secular practice of making New Year’s resolutions? Advent is a season of preparation not just for the impending commemoration of the Nativity, but also a continuation of our preparation for heaven (which holy mother church is ever urging us toward) and whilst not quite as penitential a season as Lent, nonetheless shares elements in its observance.
The liturgical colour of violet(/purple) denotes the “preparatory” nature of this season and as always with violet, penitence and penance are an intrinsically implied aspect. But it is also “anticipatory” i.e. we know or can expect the liturgical and spiritual glory of the revelatory feast that will follow; just as the use of violet on vigils of greater feasts, so in Advent as at Candlemas and in Lent, we can expect the testimony of sacrificial red, the brilliant purity of white and the glory of gold.
In our spiritual lives too we ought ever to be cognisant of our sin which, unless addressed, clothes our souls in the blackness of death rather than the preparatory veil of penitence in anticipation of heaven? We will never in this earthly life fully attain to that sinless white purity required for heaven, to be “clothed in the white of the Lamb”i will come only through the purification that follows mortal death for the Christian soul and God’s ultimate mercy and grace toward us in the Judgement. The golden glory that will one day be revealed will occur only when “all have been gathered up” by the “Sun of righteousness”ii when He comes.
Appreciating the objective reality of our soul’s condition should not prevent us however from striving after purity! Indeed, holy mother church has been richly endowed by Christ through His priesthoodiii to bestow upon us as much of God’s grace as we will avail ourselves of! As the psalmist says “a humble and contrite heart The Lord will not despise”iv and it is in humble recognition of our constant need for His grace that we should approach the restorative sacraments of Penance and Eucharist this Adventide.
In approaching the sacraments however, we must remember to be contrite i.e. to intend not to sin again. However hopeless this “catch 22” may appear to be i.e. of our never being able to attain to perfect purity, yet of our need to constantly strive toward it, we have no need to despair! For such is the love of God for us, made manifest in Christ upon the Cross that our faith, if maintained, assures us of a place in heavenv – as long as we strive!
In our striving then this Advent, let us focus our hearts and minds that the commercial distractions prevalent this month do not prevent us from the point of our anticipatory preparation. Let us utilise the restorative sacraments availing our souls of the grace that momentarily lifts the violet veil to reveal that which will one day be realised in all souls who strive, the brilliance of purity and the eternal glory of our transfiguration.
For in the commemoration of the Nativity we witness alpha and omegavi in the Christ Child, redemption comes to us in the pain of mortal birth and through the suffering of the Cross ultimately realised in His glorious resurrection. The baby born in the mire of a manger is brilliant purity Himself and the glory of which the angels sing at His birth is the hope that is ours both now and to come through the glory of His resurrection and our own rebirth through the mire of sin and darkness into the purity and light which is the glory of heaven!
Advent like Lent is a time not only for recollection and penitence but also for charity, expressing our penance through faith into good works. Mindful of our own needs and the providence God has bestowed upon us, let us remember to seek to serve those less fortunate than ourselves making this truly a season of goodwill.
Let us resolve then to hold on to and become that hope which the Christ Child brings, that we may ourselves share in the glory of the “Sun of righteousness” when that “radiant dawn”vii spreading His Kingdom upon earth will begin our own glorious transformation “through Him, with Him and in Him”viii as coheirs of His Kingdom to the glory of God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
Oremus pro invicem I.X.
The Most Reverend Jerome Lloyd OSJV
i Cf Revelation 7:14
ii Cf Isaiah 9:2, Malachi 4:2
iii Cf Hebrews 7
iv Cf Psalm 51:17
v Cf John 3:16
vi “Beginning and end”
vii “O Oriens” Advent O Antiphon V
viii Doxology of the Canon of the Mass