This is our first Pandemic Advent and, with hope, the only on! This circumstance affords us a new and different perspective through which to consider the spirituality of Advent.
Advent is a penitential season, but not in the sense of brow beating, sackcloth and ashes. Advent demands penance that reflects human weakness in light of God choosing to come to share in our lives although not in the sinfulness of our fallen nature. This kind of penance evokes a humility that respects and honors God’s great gift of nativity and the promise to come again.
What has the pandemic to say to our Advent spirituality?
Restrictions: Do we react with self-pity, a desire to discount knowledge and to forego wisdom and prudence? Do we do our best to follow rules for the sake of others and even at our own inconvenience? How do restrictions test virtue?
Attitudes: Do we flaunt our conformity or non-conformity to lift our lives above those of others to shame or to attack? Do we have a sense that everyone is part of the pandemic and that by helping we are not hurting?
These two areas can concentrate our thoughts upon Advent during a Pandemic because it pushes us beyond normalcy. As the Bible says, Wake up! (Romans 13:11-14). The Nativity of the Lord remains the same but its context this year makes us celebrate it differently. Preparing for the Second Coming remains a foggy thought of what we acknowledge will come, but when and how we do not know. This year, we know that 1,427,100+ people have left our world due to Covid-19. One of these could have been us or is someone we have known. How do these thoughts shape our view of humanity and of God? How does faith serve us? Have statistics remained just a number that is void of the beauty of human life, complete with its joy and sadness? Does the frustration of change to accommodate turn us bitter and suspicious, which discounts or minimizes our basic belief that somehow God is a part of all this?
As I contemplate your many varied lives, some of which I have not seen since last February, I wondered what would be helpful to our Advent spirituality. To this end, I thought that reaching out beyond our lives might help us to celebrate Christmas in a different context. The Pastoral Council agreed that outward thinking would connect us to those who must continually face restrictions and adjust attitudes.
You will likely have already received in the mail an appeal to help build a family a home in Haiti. This home is nothing fancy and recipients must help professionals to build their homes, but hard work is a blessing of satisfaction and a roof that does not leak or disintegrate when it rains is a comforting relief.
Let’s keep this appeal in our Advent hearts. Let’s all remember that preparing for Christmas is making a room for God in our lives that he has already given us. I know of some families whose children have all grown decided to gather funds together to give to a charity instead of buying presents. Might this appeal respond to your search for this year’s charity?
You will also notice that this year a simple house with a big red ribbon is set on our sanctuary steps, near the ambo. Instead of a traditional Advent wreath this house will give a home to our Advent candles. Each Sunday Mass will begin with a penitential rite near the house and a blessing and lighting of each candle to mark each week. In addition, those who greet you and usher you will wear a red ribbon on their name tag to welcome you to your parish home which pledges to serve Christ in others.
Donations may be dropped off anytime at the parish office or put in collection baskets. If you fill your house, which was mailed to you, with coins, these can be dropped off at the office or left in baskets at each door. Additional houses are available in the church and the parish office.
Besides our own parish observance of Advent, you may also want to take advantage of a ‘nifty’ family Advent booklet from the diocese by going to: Advent – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix (dphx.org) or Adviento – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix (dphx.org). A flipbook is available for download.
Christmas Mass: Christmas will look much different this year with health concerns and gathering restrictions. At SMG, we will have Christmas Eve Masses at noon, 2:00, 4:00 & 8:00 pm, and Christmas Day at 8:00 and 10:00am. Keep in mind seating is limited to approximately 140 and that Bishop Olmsted’s dispensation from Mass is still in place – it is not obligatory to attend Mass. One Mass on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas day will be live-streamed and communion will be offered on the patio (outside the parish office) Christmas Eve 5:30 – 7:00pm, and Christmas Day 11:15 – noon. We want everyone to be safe & healthy and while it may seem odd not to be in church, we encourage families to view Mass online (facebook.com/smgaz) and understand that if attending in person, you may find there is “no room at the Inn” and asked to return to a later Mass.
Wishing you peace during this Holy season,