Monday, November 29, 2004

What we mean by "Advent," part I

Last Sunday began the church season of Advent. But what does that mean? Isn't it just the four weeks to great ready for Christmas?To answer these questions, I feel like I need to expound a bit on the meaning of Advent.
I will expound again in later blogs about what Advent means, but to put it first into context, I need to explain it in light of its place in the Christian cycle of the year.
With Advent, the Christian cycle of the year will begin anew. This cycle mirrors the life of Jesus, so we may better experience his life in all its stages, and devote part of each year in study of each individual part of Christ’s life, so we may come to a fuller understanding of Christ.
It begins with the season of Advent, which means “arrival,” where, in the lectionary readings, we start setting the stage for the birth of Jesus with such stories as the Anunciation to Mary, the birth of John the Baptist, etc. In Advent, we prepare ourselves for the mysteries of Christ birth so that we may fully appreciate the meaning when the next season of Christmas comes, announcing the birth of the Messiah.
The church then moves to Epiphany, which celebrates Jesus’ adult life on this earth and marks the revelation of God's gift of himself to all men The word Epiphany means "to show" or "manifestation.". It has become a time for emphasis on the missionary task of the Church.
This lasts until Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. Lent is a time, with joy and sorrow during this season, the Church proclaims, remembers, and responds to the atoning death of Christ.
Lent culminates in the Holy week, beginning with Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and we remember the passion and death of Christ the Lord.
Then of course comes Easter, where we remember the resurrection of our risen Lord. The highest day of the entire Christian cycle of the year. Ascension Day is 40 days after Easter. After the resurrection, Christ appeared among his disciples for 40 days after which he ascended into Heaven. It is celebrated to affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord of all times and all places.
The Pentecost season extends from the seventh Sunday after Easter to the beginning of Advent. Pentecost was an event of such overwhelming emotion that it could only be described by those who experienced it as "the rush of a mighty wind" and "tounges of fire" (Acts 2:2-3). It is considered the festival commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and an extended season for reflecting on how God's people live under the guidance of his spirit.
The second semester of the Church year is the Season after Pentacost, which used to be called (and I prefer frankly) the Trinity Season. It lasts from the first Sunday after Pentecost until the Church year begins anew with Advent. Trinity is the longest season of the Church year, and the color green is used to commerote our growth and understanding of the teaching of Christ and the Church on the Trinity. It is the only major festival to commemorate a doctrine rather than an event or act in the life of Jesus, or in the history of the early Church. After the end of the Season after Pentacost, the cycle begins again with a new church year in Advent.

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