“In this sacramental dispensation of Christ’s mystery [i.e. the liturgy] the Holy Spirit acts in the same way as at other times in the economy of salvation: he prepares the Church to encounter her Lord; he recalls and makes Christ manifest to the faith of the assembly. By his transforming power, he makes the mystery of Christ present here and now.” (Art. 1092)
“… For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the “today” of her liturgy.” (Art. 1095)
Reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Articles 1091-1095), I was reminded in a fresh way that Advent is not just a number of days we tick off on the calendar as we await Christmas (sometimes accompanied by a morsel of chocolate!): Advent, as a liturgical season, is a participation in and invitation to eternity.
I’m sure you’ve noticed: liturgical time is not like ordinary time, which is simply the seconds, minutes, hours, days, years passing by. Liturgy takes ordinary time and sanctifies it, redirecting it towards its proper end, which is God. Essentially, liturgy makes sense out of time. It gives time meaning.
And how does it do this? Because, I dare say, all time is Advent: all time (properly understood) is an anticipation of the arrival of the Eternal One. In the days of the Old Covenant, we awaited the coming of the Messiah. During the liturgical season of Advent, we remember this acutely and we live alongside our Fathers in Faith, waiting for the gift beyond all our hopes and expectations: the Incarnation. Now in the days of the New Covenant, we await the Messiah’s return in glory, but let us not forget that we also await His coming in our life every day and indeed, most particularly, at the end of our life.
Frequent participation in the liturgy of the Mass and an annual engagement with the rhythmic cycle of liturgical seasons reminds us that all time (whether we are awake or asleep, serving or contemplating) comes from God and returns to God and is united in God. Through the Liturgy of the Word, we re-live the events of the history of God’s relationship with us, and in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we receive the summation of all those events: we receive Eternity Himself.
I was wondering why Advent, more than any other liturgical season, seems to make me think more consciously about time. I think it may be because there is no other season that understands so well the spirit of waiting the ancients knew so well that is to be present in our hearts until our last breath, for our hearts were made for Eternity.