My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are blessed to enter the holy season of Advent today. The faithful of Guam join those in the mainland United States and throughout the world in heralding a new liturgical year today, during the First Sunday of Advent.
Advent, like so many words in our Church, is derived from Latin. It comes from “ad-venire” which translated from Latin means, “to come to.” Simply put, it means “coming” or “arriving.”
Advent is the door we Catholics open with great anticipation as we begin to usher in the joyous birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ on Christmas.
Most of us grew up singing the endearing song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” If we were paying attention as youngsters – or even as adults – we know that those words are not merely the title of a religious hymn. It’s certainly not a Christmas carol nor a holiday tune.
While so many other beautiful songs this time of year fill us with warmth, cheer and even goodwill related to Christmas, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has special meaning. Whether we sing those words or utter them softly in prayer, we should understand the deep significance they hold for us. More then mere words, they are a proclamation of sorts. They proclaim who we are; that we are a faithful people who recognize, accept, believe and welcome Christ our Savior into our lives. Emmanuel is the biblical word for “God with us.”
In other words, we embrace Christ.
It’s an embrace that is meant to be shared with one another … and with others. Each point of our Liturgical calendar – every day of our lives, actually — calls us to openly live out our faith and announce to the world how our lives are centered on the beautiful truth, hope and love of our Savior and Creator. Thus, we say Emmanuel, which is the biblical word for “God with us.”
I never tire of repeating the words of Pope Francis who said, “Knowing Jesus is the best gift that any person can receive; that we have encountered Him is the best thing that has happened in our lives; and making Him known by our word and deeds is our joy.”
During Advent we prepare ourselves for the glorious First Coming of Christ into this world as our infant Savior. However, just as importantly, as we profess in our Creed that “Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead,” Advent reminds us to be ever mindful and fully prepared for the Second Coming of Christ in this world.
Being prepared means putting and keeping ourselves in a state of grace. Embracing Christ and professing our love for God requires obedience to him. I encourage everyone to remember the all-important penitential aspect of Advent. There are many ways to prepare ourselves for our Lord. We immerse ourselves in Mass, prayer and the Sacraments, most especially the Rite of Reconciliation by going to confession regularly. Spend good, quality time studying the Bible, reflecting on the Gospels, and discussing Scripture and the teachings of Christ with one another.
Though it may be more difficult to do so because of all the celebration and revelry around us, we can also practice moderation, penance and sacrifice. It need not be Lent to do so. Finally, during a time when many are preoccupied with having much and gaining more, let’s remember to help those who have little or nothing. Help the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the lonely, the sick and most certainly, the non-believers.
Each Sunday of Advent, we light one candle of the Advent Wreath. This season and always, may we share the Light of Christ with each person we meet each day.
A blessed, holy Advent to all,
/s/Archbishop Michael Byrnes
Archdiocese of Agaña