In Advent, Christians relive a dual impulse of the spirit: on the one hand, they raise their eyes towards the final destination of their pilgrimage through history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, remembering with emotion his birth in Bethlehem, they kneel before the Crib.
The hope of Christians is turned to the future but remains firmly rooted in an event of the past. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary: “Born of a woman, born under the law”, as the Apostle Paul writes (Gal 4: 4).
~ Pope Benedict XVI – First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2005
Advent: Every Child Born is a Sign
Hope is indelibly engraved in the human heart because God our Father is life, and for eternal life and beatitude we are made.
Every child born is a sign of trust in God and man and a confirmation, at least implicit, of the hope in a future open to God’s eternity that is nourished by men and women. God has responded to this human hope, concealing Himself in time as a tiny human being.
Saint Augustine wrote: “We might have thought that your Word was far distant from union with man, if this Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us” (Conf. X, 43, 69, cited in Spe Salvi, n. 29).
Thus, let us allow ourselves to be guided by the One who in her heart and in her womb bore the Incarnate Word.
O Mary, Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope, revive the spirit of Advent in your entire Church, so that all humanity may start out anew on the journey towards Bethlehem, from which it came, and that the Sun that dawns upon us from on high will come once again to visit us (cf. Lk 1: 78), Christ our God. Amen.
~Pope Benedict XVI, From his homily for the first vespers of the first Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2007 – St. Peter’s Basilica
Excerpt from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, Principles and Guidelines, Vatican City, December 2001
Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope:
- waiting-memory of the first, humble coming of the Lord in our mortal flesh; waiting-supplication for his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge;
- conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3,2);
- joyful hope that the salvation already accomplished by Christ (cf. Rm 8, 24-25) and the reality of grace in the world, will mature and reach their fulness, thereby granting us what is promised by faith, and “we shall become like him for we shall see him as he really is” (John 3,2).
Popular piety is particularly sensitive to Advent, especially when seen as the memory of the preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Christian people are deeply conscious of the long period of expectation that preceded the birth of our Saviour. The faithful know that God sustained Israel’s hope in the coming of the Messiah by the prophets.Popular piety is not unaware of this extraordinary event. Indeed, it is awestruck at the prospect of the God of glory taking flesh in the womb of the humble and lowly Virgin Mary. The faithful are particularly sensitive to the difficulties faced by the Virgin Mary during her pregnancy, and are deeply moved by the fact that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary, just as she was about to give birth to the Christ child (cf Lk 2,7).
Various expressions of popular piety connected with Advent have emerged throughout the centuries. These have sustained the faith of the people, and from one generation to the next, they have conserved many valuable aspects of the liturgical season of Advent.