Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent.

Happy New Year! The new church year begins with Advent, the season leading to Christmas.

Just light one purple one today, actually.
Advent is a period of preparation leading to the commemoration of the Nativity, traditionally celebrated by drinking too much and eating millions of cookies and shopping like looters. No, actually, the faithful are instructed to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. The readings on this first week are all about being ready---don't let the Lord catch you asleep at the switch, dummy!

So it's like Lent really, right? Well, my impression is, yes and no. Back in my semi-pagan days I knew an old Irish fellow who did not drink during Advent as part of his preparation. I thought that was the most insane thing I ever heard. Not drink during the Christmas season? That's impossible! And he's doing it at an office party with free booze! But Advent is not really the Christmas season; Christmas as a season are the days from December 25 to the Epiphany. Then he could drink, I guess. The history is very complicated, and it seems that periods of merrymaking got so out of hand that fasts were imposed off and on. (Lots more at New Advent.)

One priest I knew said that Gaudete Sunday, the third one in Advent (the delightful pink candle is for that, not the birthday of Hello Kitty) is a reminder that Advent is not Lent; "Gaudete Sunday, therefore, makes a breaker like Laetare Sunday, about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord's coming." But while Laetare Sunday is not (at least in my experience) celebrated as a break in Lent---I don't recall it ever being especially noted---Gaudete Sunday always is.

It's a bit confusing. Hey, the church has been around for two thousand years, and the complexity and apparent contradictions of the Catechism are as nothing compared to those in the much newer U.S. tax code. Suffice it to say that Advent is not Lent, but it wouldn't kill me or any Christian to use the time of preparation to try to become better people, to do some scriptural reading, and to give up something we love as a sacrifice. But not cookies. Ain't giving up my cookies.

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