By Mel Mantanona
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
Last weekend the Universal Church celebrated and closed the previous liturgical year, Year B, with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This Sunday we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent which marks the beginning of the new liturgical year, Year C.
The season of Advent is one of waiting, preparation, and anticipation for the coming and birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There are many ways we can commemorate the season beyond our presence at Mass. The following are some examples.
A classic family practice is the creation or buying of candle wreaths that keep track of the Advent progression. A candle is lit as every Advent Sunday leads up to Christmas. Another long-standing tradition widely practiced especially here on Guam, is the display of the empty manger depicting the Nativity scene or what we locally refer to as the “Belen,” coupled with various types of novenas. Remember that the belen should be sans-Jesus until he arrives on Christmas day! Last but not least, we can invoke the intersession of some of the great saints of Advent with whom some even have little traditions of their own!
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary, being the closest to Jesus, is a prominent Advent figure for her role before and after Jesus’ birth (and eventual death). On Dec. 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception which pays tribute to the doctrine that Mary was conceived without original sin. Four days later, we celebrate the Marian feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in honor of the Marian apparitions and image phenomena given to St. Juan Diego.
Dec. 6 brings us to the feast day of the saint often associated with the origin of Santa Claus. Perhaps it has to do with his most famous story where he secretly planted a bag of gold under the window of a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters. St. Nicholas’s actions allowed the daughters to marry and not be forced into prostitution. There is a family tradition and custom for children to leave their shoes out the night before his feast day in hopes that the bishop will pay a visit with a gift (typically candy from parents).
This young, virgin martyr who is mentioned in the Roman Canon was executed for denying the advances of a Roman solider and for proclaiming her faith at a time when Christianity was oppressed. In Sweden, her feast day marks the opening of the Christmas season and St. Lucy’s Day is typically celebrated with Swedish treats and cakes. St. Lucy’s feast day is on Dec. 13. Among other things, she is considered the patron saint of the visually impaired or patron saint of eye disease. A devout Catholic ophthalmologist, Dr. Marjorie Debenedictis, even named her clinic for the saint here on Guam: St. Lucy’s Eye Clinic located in Tamuning.
St. John the Baptist
As Advent is a time to prepare ourselves for Jesus’s birth, it’s of value to look at one of the most prominent figures to pave the way for Jesus’ coming, John the Baptist. Celebrating his birth on Dec. 14 exemplifies John’s fearless proclamation and desire: He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30).”
May your hearts be ever open, joyful, and ready this Advent season as we prepare for the birth of our Lord and Savior.