Advent week one — A new beginning

When the verses from Chapter 33 of the Book of Jeremiah are read as the first reading on the First Sunday of Advent this year, I will hear them in a new way.

Dec 02, 2018

By Fr Herb Weber
When the verses from Chapter 33 of the Book of Jeremiah are read as the first reading on the First Sunday of Advent this year, I will hear them in a new way.

The prophet’s words, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made,” will resonate with special meaning for us.

For us, a promise fulfilled is a reality. A new beginning has come upon us.

Advent, with its theme of promises, also is the beginning of a liturgical cycle. It is a time when the Church starts all over again. And although the time for all promises to be fulfilled may only come with the final return of the Lord, we start over with anticipation, expectation and strong commitment.

Beginnings are both exciting and challenging. The Catholic Church often introduces new liturgical practices with the First Sunday of Advent.

Seven years ago, with the First Sunday of Advent, the English-speaking Church introduced a new translation of Mass prayers. Many will remember the challenge of helping people adjust to new phrases right before Christmas.

With much less public awareness, we used Advent two years ago as the time to introduce a new rite for the sacrament of marriage. In that case, it was during “low wedding season” and there was time to help couples prepare. And every year, our Church begins a new year of the three-year cycle of readings from the Bible, this year with emphasis on Luke.

Advent should not be seen simply as a time for changes of rites or rubrics or Gospel readings. It truly is a time for the Church to declare a new beginning for ourselves as we trace the story of our salvation. Such beginnings are future-oriented even as they connect with the past.

The theme of promises fulfilled is both past and present. As people of faith, we have received the ultimate promise from God, namely, salvation and hope for the world. Jeremiah reminds us it will come to pass, and that is the future element.

The First Sunday of Advent provides the big picture with a look to the second coming of Jesus as Luke (Chapter 21) declares signs that the Son of Man will come with redemption. The next three Sundays will look back at the first coming of Jesus in human form.

For us, in the middle, we build off the past to address the future. As we start over again, we realise we are not the same persons who started over last year or the previous year. Each new beginning is like the inward spiral that brings people closer to the centre. Perhaps the promise is that, as we near that core, we will find the message of hope more pronounced. --CNS

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