The season of Advent is one of hope, anticipation, joy and prayerful reflection. From the Latin adventus (meaning ‘arrival’), Advent prompts us to new beginnings. It is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming Christ child, and to give voice to our longing for a richer, more abundant life in God.
Year by year, we learn what it is to keep Advent: to take time with those days and nights before Christmas. And we learn too to keep Christmas: to make a festival of stories, songs, and deeds done year after year. Together the keeping of these seasons gives witness to how God reigns in our lives and in the world. Throughout these days of Advent and Christmas, the images of the nativity are placed side by side with the gospel we have believed: God—within us, now.—from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1989, p. 109
These weekly reflections have been prepared with the gospel readings for each Sunday of Advent and offer an opportunity for individuals and/or groups to read, reflect, pray and act, prompting each one of us to ‘go out’ into the waiting-time of Advent and to express the God-within-us to others.
The reflections are structured as follows:
Commence your time of prayer with silence. Lighting a candle is a way of being invited into a sacred space for reflection, and it might be particularly helpful to use an Advent wreath as a prayer focus for these four weeks. Singing or listening to the Taizé hymn ‘In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful’ is a good way to begin your time of reflection, offering a joyful sense of anticipation for these Advent days. A simple gathering prayer is offered and then the gospel reading of the Sunday.
Open the word
Read, ponder, reflect
Each reflection includes the relevant Sunday Advent gospel reading, providing many riches for contemplation and conversation. Read the gospel, noting key phrases and words that speak to you, and then read it again in a contemplative manner a second time. If time permits, a third reading of the gospel may be appropriate. If working with a group, this could then be followed by a conversation about the ideas and thoughts raised in the minds of the readers. Alternatively, use the time of pondering to reflect in your heart on what the Lord has been saying to you.
Short reflections are offered to provide a possible focus for the relevant week of Advent and to reflect upon what Advent is calling us to in our lives.
A suggested song and/or prayer is provided, as a way of drawing together some of the thoughts arising from the focus on the gospel. Finally, drawing on Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December, the gospel reading and the week’s feast days, each weekly resource concludes with suggestions on how the God-within-us may be made manifest in our life and living.