Advent marks a time of spiritual preparation before Christmas
It begins on the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30) and spans four Sundays or four weeks unless Christmas falls early.
The historical origins of Advent are hard to determine with great precision. From its earliest form in the 4th century, Advent has always been similar to Lent, with an emphasis on prayer and fasting.
The Gelasian Sacramentary, traditionally attributed to Pope St. Gelasius I (d. 496), was the first to provide Advent liturgies for five Sundays. Later, Pope St. Gregory I (d. 604) enhanced these liturgies composing prayers, antiphons, readings, and responses. Pope St. Gregory VII (d. 1095) later reduced the number of Sundays in Advent to four. Finally, about the ninth century, the Church designated the first Sunday of Advent as the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year.
The Catechism stresses the two-fold meaning of this coming : When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (No. 524).
The importance of this season is therefore to focus on the coming of our Lord. Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning coming:
We REFLECT BACK and are encouraged to celebrate the anniversary of the Lords first coming into this world. We are invited to ponder more deeply into the great mystery of the incarnation when our Lord humbled Himself, taking on our humanity, and entered our time and space to free us from sin.
We LOOK FORWARD as we recall in the Creed that our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead and that we must be ready to meet Him.
Our use of the Advent wreathe was inspired by the German Lutherans in the early 1500’s. The wreathe is a circle, which has no beginning or end: In this way, we call to mind how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity of Gods plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The wreathe is made of fresh plant material, because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. Three candles are purple (the same colour as the Priest’s vestments in Advent), symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because our preparation is now half-way finished.
The light represents Christ, who entered this world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way of righteousness. The progression of lighting candles shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord. Each family ought to have an Advent wreathe, light it at dinner time, and say the special prayers. This tradition will help each family keep its focus on the true meaning of Christmas. In all, during Advent we strive to fulfil the opening prayer for the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
Beginning on St. Andrew the Apostle’s feast day, November 30…
The following beautiful prayer is traditionally recited fifteen times a day until Christmas. This is a very meditative prayer that helps us increase our awareness of the real focus of Christmas and helps us prepare ourselves spiritually for His coming.
NOVEMBER is traditionally the month when Catholics everywhere remember those who have gone to God.
NOVEMBER is traditionally the month when Catholics everywhere remember those who have gone to God.
Our Faith teaches that through their lifetime journey, every person has a moral freedom to choose, with three possible ultimate outcomes:
we attain beatitude, which expresses the joy and peace of being eternally with God in Heaven;
that journey had not completely resulted, at the time of their departure from this life, in the total conversion and renewal of the person and so, by an act of sheer Divine compassion, they are held in God’s love and ‘purified’ of their defects, so as to enter eventually into Heaven, where no imperfection can coexist;
or, they freely and willingly, as witnessed by their moral actions on earth, reject God and are therefore destined for Hell. God accepts that this is their sovereign decision and so, Hell is where those who wish to have no relationship, nothing to do with God, will go. For the damned, there is no possible alternative afterwards. It is an eternal state.
The Church has always taught us to pray for those who have gone to eternity. Even in the late Old Testament book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 12:38-46), prayers and alms were offered for the souls of the dead by those who thought “well and religiously concerning the resurrection.” It was believed that “they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them” and that “it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” We know that a defiled soul cannot enter into Heaven. We are all in need of grace to come into the perfection of charity. We cannot enter Heaven if we have not been completely cleansed of sin and all punishment due to sin, c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1031 and 1472.
Purgatory is not eternal. Its duration depends upon the particular judgment each have received from Christ. By Divine Mercy, they have not merited hell, because in their lives, they honoured God and developed their relationship with him, despite any limitations and failures. It is difficult to speak in terms of earthly time, since Purgatory is a temporary state, not a place as such. It is therefore not bound by space and time in the same way we are, but it is connected; and certainly it is connected with the definitive Second Coming of the Son of Man at the end of time, when Purgatory will also cease to exist.
The Church has always taught that we can pray for the dead and assist them in their purification. We can shorten therefore their time in Purgatory, because our prayers of love supplicate for them before the Mercy of God. The most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is THE WAY to help the dead in Purgatory, because it is the Altar of hope and consolation for us all. That is why it is a most honourable act of charity to have a Priest offer a Mass for the Dead, or as an intention for a given Mass offered for a dearly departed person. Please be aware that sometimes people confuse offering a Mass themselves in person, as in going specially to one for someone or having in mind some intention of our own, and the actual application of the Mass by the Priest for the specific intention requested as he does so in persona Christi.
The ancient practice of Indulgences is also to be recommended for the Faithful Departed. You can read more on this in the Catechism, paragraphs 1471 to 1479.
The Most Reverend Michael G. Bowen, S.T.L., Ph.L., former Archbishop of Southwark died in the early hours of Thursday 17 October 2019. He was 89 years-old.
Archbishop Bowen was born in Gibraltar, where his maternal grandparents lived, on 23 April 1930 – the feast day of St George, patron saint of England.
His home until 1959 was in Wimbledon, London. He was the son of Major John Bowen (Irish Guards, killed in action in World War II, Norway 1940) and Mary, née Pedley, who married Sir Paul Makins, Bt, in 1945.
Archbishop Bowen was educated at Downside School before gaining a place at Trinity College, Cambridge.
He was a wine merchant, working for Saccone and Speed Ltd, before entering into formation for the Catholic priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome, in 1952. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Southwark on 6 July 1958.
Twelve years later, he was Ordained the second Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton on 14 March 1971.
That same year, he was elected with Cardinal Heenan to represent the Bishops of England and Wales at the Rome Synod on “The Priesthood” and on “Justice and Peace in the World”.
In March 1977, he succeeded Cyril Conrad Cowderoy as the eighth Archbishop of Southwark. Archbishop Bowen welcomed then-Pope John Paul II to St George’s Cathedral in 1982.
He was well known to Gibraltar. He co-consecrated Bishop Edward Rapallo in 1973 and presided at his funeral in Gibraltar in 1984.
He installed Bishop Bernard Devlin, who had been consecrated in Rome by Pope St. John Paul II in 1985, as Bishop of Gibraltar.
He co-consecrated Bishop Caruana in 1998.
Finally, he returned to the Rock in 2010 to consecrate Bishop Ralph Heskett C.Ss.R.
Archbishop Bowen was a member of the Standing Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Chairman of it from 1999 to 2001. He also served the Bishops’ Conference as Chair of the Department of Christian Life and Worship (1983-99) and Chair of the Committee for Marriage and Family Life (1983-86).
Our Lady of Europe has been on the side of Gibraltar, throughout all our history. Especially, through the closing and opening of the frontier and all during our difficult times. Yesterday we gathered to ask her again to intercede for us:
For our children and the trials, they are or will face in their life’s.
For our Christian identity and way of life.
For protection of the weakest and sick members of our Community.
For current state of living, that it may be preserved.
For the upcoming Election and all the politicians.
For Brexit, may it have a good and blessed solution to all sides.
The Diocesan Youth Ministry organised a “Rosary Round the Rock” yesterday, Monday the 7th October, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. at 5.00pm along 35 posts encircling the entire Gibraltar.
Quite a number assembled at each post from the various parishes and Diocesan movements. Many more who could not be with us, because they are housebound, in hospital or for other reasons not able to make it to one of the posts, prayed the Rosary at 5 pm too.
THANK YOU to all who attended, or were not able to be with us, but joined us in spirit at that time.
Thank you also to all who organised the event and made our time of prayer possible.