Today, the season of Advent begins. The word “advent” is from the Latin ddventus, which literally means “coming”. In the Catholic world, Advent is the four-week period of preparation for Christmas, the feast of the Nativity of Jesus. In this season, the faithful are called to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love.
During the midday angelus at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said that Advent is a time “full of hope and spiritual expectation.” He also said that “Advent is the time in which Christians must awaken in their hearts the hope of being able, with the help of God, to renew the world.”
The following is the full text of the Pontiff’s message:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
With this Sunday Advent begins, an extremely evocative time from the religious point of view, as it is full of hope and spiritual expectation. Every time the Christian community prepares to remember the birth of the Redeemer, it feels a tremor of joy, which is communicated, in a certain measure, to the whole of society.
During Advent, the Christian population relives a double movement of the spirit. On one hand, it raises its gaze to the final goal of pilgrimage in history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, recalling his birth in Bethlehem with emotion, it bends down before the crib. The hope of Christians is directed to the future, but always remains well rooted in a past event. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, “born of woman, born under the law,” as St. Paul writes (Galatians 4:4).
The Gospel invites us today to remain vigilant while awaiting the last coming of Christ. “Watch!” says Jesus, “for you do not know when the master of the house will come” (Mark 13:35-37). The brief parable of the master who left on a trip and of the servants, in charge of taking his place, manifests the importance of being ready to receive the Lord, when he comes unexpectedly. The Christian community awaits his “manifestation” with longing, and the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, exhorts them to have confidence in God’s fidelity, and to live so that when he returns he will find them “guiltless” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9) in the day of the Lord. For this reason, very appropriately, at the beginning of Advent the liturgy puts on our lips the invocation of the Psalm: “Show us thy steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation” (Psalm 84:8).
We could say that Advent is the time in which Christians must awaken in their hearts the hope of being able, with the help of God, to renew the world. In this connection, I would also like to recall today the Second Vatican Council’s constitution “Gaudium et Spes” on the Church in the contemporary world: It is a text profoundly permeated with Christian hope.
I am referring in particular to Number 39, entitled: “New Earth and New Heaven.” In it, one can read: “We are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:13). Nevertheless, “the expectation of a new earth must not weaken, but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one.” We will rediscover the good fruits of our efforts, in fact, when Christ hands to his father his eternal and universal kingdom. May Mary most holy, virgin of Advent, enable us to live this time of grace watching and committed while awaiting the Lord.