Rorate Caeli

The Urgency of Advent This Year: Light a Candle!

 Next Sunday is the Last Sunday after Pentecost. The Gospel for that Sunday ends the Church Year with the “bang” of the Last Things. It is indeed fitting that the Last Sunday of the Church Year should call our attention to the consummation of all things in Jesus Christ when he will come to judge the living and the dead and usher in the triumph of the Kingdom of God. 

 This Last Sunday is followed by the First Sunday in Advent, that wonderful season of preparation of the feast of Christmas marking that event that changed history forever in the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world who is God and man. The season of Advent in the Northern hemisphere is marked by darkness as we approach the shortest day of the year. It is significant that Christmas is celebrated a few days after the winter solstice, when the night begins to yield to the light of day. The birth of the Christ Child is the beginning of the conquering of the darkness of sin and death, the essence of hope that Light will conquer darkness. 

It has become a popular custom in the Christmas season for candles to be placed in the window of homes as a symbol of the Light of the world who was born into this world over two thousand years ago. I have always been a stickler about not anticipating Christmas too far in advance. I have always insisted on keeping Advent almost in opposition to the secular and commercial push to begin Christmas on Thanksgiving Day and ending it on Christmas Eve. So I have always frowned on Christmas decorations being displayed before at least the O! Antiphons. I have tried to refrain from listening to Christmas music before late Advent.  No candles in the windows until after the feast of St. Lucy.

But this year is deeply different. Where I live in the United States the past year has been one of social and political turmoil that has caused great pain to all Americans. But this pain and turmoil is not confined to the United States. The whole world seems to be in a state of turmoil and deep uncertainty about the future. And the deepest affliction that grips the whole world is the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write the whole world is engulfed in the worst phase of the pandemic in terms of deaths and the number people afflicted with this virus with various levels of virulence.  But just as significant is the rupture of familial and social bonds. Loneliness is the norm. The lack of touch, of embrace, of eating together, for Catholics the deprivation of participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for all Christians the inability to worship God on Sunday as a community: this is a cause of deep sadness that cannot be quantified by charts and admonitions.

In this situation I offer a modest proposal.  Let every Catholic home put candles in the windows of their homes beginning on the First Sunday of Advent.  This year is not a time to wait until Christmas is imminent. Those lights in our windows have to shineforth in this  time of physical and spiritual darkness to proclaim to those around us that Christ is the Light of the world especially in times of terrible darkness. And let those lights shine forth every night in Advent and through Christmastide to the glorious feast of the Epiphany commemorating the whole world brought to Christ by the light of a Star. So many of us will not have the loving company of our families and friends this Christmas.  But in our own and small way amidst this real pain we must remind the world of the Good News of Jesus Christ who alone can pierce the darkness of this world. Put those candles in your windows and witness to the Light in the darkness!

 Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla