Preparation for the coming of the Lord
Month of December – the Month of earnest new beginnings!
In our Catholic liturgy, the first day of Advent (this year falling precisely on December, 1) is New Year’s Day – the day of earnest new beginnings. Time of preparation, time of reflection, time of examination of our past deeds and thus, time of new beginnings. A well-made and well-lived preparation is necessary for every good success. And so, let us correspond to all the very special graces coming with this time of preparation, to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, and with that, to our own new rebirth!
Firstly, what does actually Advent mean? Advent means the coming, and is used by the Church to represent the four thousand years of preparation for the coming of the Redeemer, and at the same time points us to His second coming as our judge. Thus we find that the coming or Advent of Jesus is at once simple and threefold; simple because it is always the Son of God who comes, threefold because he comes at three different times and in three different ways. “There are three comings of our Lord – says Peter of Lois –; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at judgement”. “In the first coming” says St Bernard, “he comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, he comes in spirit and power; in the third, he comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third”.
Let us then have a closer look at this second coming. Let us ask ourselves: What shall do? How can we prepare ourselves well?
During Advent we must prepare the way for the Lord by making our hearts clean, and keying ourselves up by doing good works. Our Lord knocks at the door of our hears, at one time so forcibly that we must needs notice him, and at another so softly that it requires attention to know that he is asking admission. He comes to ask us if we have room for him, for he wishes to be born in our house. The house indeed is his, for he built it and preserves it; yet he complains that his own refused to received him; at least a great number of us. But as many as received him, he gave the power to be made the sons of God, born not of blood, nor of the flesh, but of God.
Therefore, make ready to receive him into our hearts by greater reflection (examination of conscience), purifying of our souls (sacramental confession), growing in grace (prayer and more frequent Holy Communion).
Let us briefly reflect on each of these elements.
Examination of conscience. Examination of conscience is a sincere effort to call to mind all the sins we have committed since our last worthy confession. The best method of examining it is to take the Commandments and go over each one, examining ourselves if we have broken any. After this, we should examine ourselves on the Commandments of the Church and on the capital sins. It is very advisable is to make use of some little booklet, which helps us through this process.
Sacramental Confession. Sacramental Confession is the sacrament by which sins committed after Baptism are forgiven through the absolution of the priest. The effects of the sacrament of Penance are 1) the restoration or increase of sanctifying grace; 2) the forgiveness of sins; 3) the remission of the eternal punishment, if necessary, and also if part, at least, of the temporal punishment, due to our sins; 4) the help to avoid sin in future and 5) the restoration of the merits of our good works if they have been lost by mortal sin.
To receive the sacrament of Penance worthily, we must: 1) examine our conscience; 2) be sorry of our sins; 3) have the firm purpose of not sinning again; 4) confess our sins to the priest; 5) be willing to perform the penance the priest gives us.
Obtaining God’s grace. Beside the Sacraments, there is also another means of obtaining God’s grace, and it is prayer. Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to adore Him, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness, and to beg of Him all the graces we need whether for soul or body. Prayer is necessary to salvation, and without it no one having the use of reason can be saved. But let us ask ourselves: How should we pray? Our Holy Mother the Church teaches: first, with attention; second, with a sense of our own helplessness and dependence upon God; third, with a great desire for the graces we beg of God; fourth, with trust in God’s goodness; fifth, with perseverance.
Advent is a time to rekindle hope; to amend our lives; to make good proposals for the new beginning. Let us then turn to Mary, let us entrust all this preparation to Her, since, as the Ven. Fulthon J. Sheen once said: “If you have never before prayed [with] Mary, do so now. Can you not see that if Christ himself willed to be physically formed in her for nine months and then spiritually formed by her for thirty years, it is to her that we must go to learn how to have Christ formed in us?”. Let us then start this holy time of Advent, and with our most holy Mother, start our preparation for Lord’s coming, and thus, initiate the time of truly earnest new beginnings!