Thursday, December 08, 2011

Well, THAT's a relief!

To the question of whether Advent is a penitential season, one Fr. Reginald Martin in Our Sunday Visitor offers this answer:
The violet-colored vestments worn during Advent may give an impression that the days before Christmas, like those of Lent, are a time of penance. In fact, they are a time of anticipation and preparation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “the liturgy of Advent each year … makes present this ancient expectation of the Messiah” (No. 524), and the subdued colors of the season symbolize the darkness we must endure as we await the light and warmth that Jesus’s birth will bring into the world.
During Advent we do not use the Gloria at Mass, and this, too, may seem penitential. However, the Gloria is the hymn the angels sang to announce the birth of Jesus, so we simply lay it aside until we celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas. In the meantime, however, we continue to sing the Alleluia.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) mentions that Advent should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of the season without expressing prematurely the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. This is an excellent summary of our belief: the happiness and joy of Christmas are not fully realized, so we observe the days of Advent with moderation and sobriety.

Moderation and sobriety? You mean like buying the 8' tree instead of the 10' one, and not getting too hammered at the office Christmas Holiday Party?

Fr. Martin seems to imply that hearing an overall theme of repenting for our sins would be bad for us, and would get in the way of preparing ourselves for the Incarnation. I admit that he could be right -- if the big problem in the Church today was an excess of penitence. If, say, Catholics were mobbing the confessionals like a Black Friday sale at Walmart, and drowning out the Mass every Sunday with uncontrollable wails of sorrow.
But of course our real problem is exactly the opposite. We're altogether way too satisfied with ourselves, way too confident that whatever we do in life, heck, we deserve forgiveness and the joys of Heaven when we die.

And for forty years, most of our clergy have been encouraging us to stay smug and put repentance aside. Guys, that's not what we need. Tell us how repentance fits into the task of preparation for Christmas. Don't pretend it doesn't have a role to play.