To understand the “what” of advent, we would better serve ourselves by asking “WHY” the word - advent? As we know, the wisdom of holy Mother Church does not choose words without reason; there is always the spiritual meaning and symbolism to be discovered.
So let’s dive deeper. Advent is from the latin verb adventus. Adventus not only means to “arrive” or “come to” but also to “develop” to “set in” and to “arise.” It also refers to “invasion” or “ripening.” Thus it’s a verb rich in meaning for this time of year. Historically the verb adventus was used in ancient Rome for the glorious arrival of an emperor into his capital city often after a military victory. In addition to celebrating the victory, the birthday of the emperor was also commemorated.
Do you see the connection? Last week we celebrated the Feast of Christ the King. Now we begin this liturgical season to not only reverence the memory of the arrival of our eternal King who humbly entered history 2000 years ago and claimed victory over sin and death, for love of us; but we also “arise” from the boredom of our daily activities, the anxieties of our earthly ambitions, and the restlessness of our meaningless desires in preparation for the joyous expectation of his Second Coming.
All our antiphons in the Liturgy of the Hours point to this confident hope in his coming – “proclaim the good news to all nations, Our God will come to save us”; “Know that the Lord is coming… that day will dawn with wonderful light, alleluia”; “the Lord will come with mighty power, all mortal eyes shall see Him.” And for all those who have kept the faith; we shake off our lethargy and welcome Him with radiating gladness. We sing praise to God with the “mountains and hills” and clap our hands with the “all the trees of the forest.” We exclaim to one another, “Come Lord, Do not delay!”
But here we give pause, some reflection. Will we be running towards our Beloved? Will the Lord find us ready? Have we been faithful? Have we been doing what we have been called to do? Will we be found worthy to “possess the heavenly kingdom?”
Pope Benedict wisely reminds us of the essential meaning of the word adventus: “God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not deserted us. Even if we cannot see and touch him as we can tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in many ways.”
Advent is a time to pay attention, to be vigilant, to renew our awareness of those ways He visits us– for the King has “already come, who will come, and is continuously coming.”
My dear friends, let the words of St. Paul echoed for us every Sunday evening prayer of Advent, shake us awake- “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul and body, irreproachable at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)