A Journey through RCIA – Part 3 – 1st week of Advent
We are now in the season of advent. What surprises me most about what I am learning through RCIA about the Catholic view of the days leading up to Christmas, is that I have been very closely following the view of the Church for most of my life.
As a child, we learned about the symbolism of the Christmas tree, and the giving of gifts, and the star at the top of the tree. However, like the Catholics and unlike many other Christian traditions; we also discussed the death, resurrection and eventual return of Christ. I can vividly remember that my mother wanted us to know not just that Christmas was about the birth of Christ, but also His life, and why He had to die on the cross and why we could look forward to His return.
Obviously, we were not Catholic, so many of the traditions, such as the Advent Wreath and attending midnight Mass are going to be new for me this year. I look forward to seeing how the season unfolds in both the Church’s activity, but also how the congregation in general does during this time.
Recently, I was discussing my journey with a co-worker. He is a theology student, so I knew he would be open to discussing the various interests I have found in the Church. Curious, he asked what it was that most draws me to the Catholic faith. I said that was a difficult thing to answer in a short sentence or two, but I would have to say one of the most attractive things is and was the reverence of worship.
Many times, in other faiths I have been apart of, the only time solemnity is shown corporately, is during the Christmas service on Christmas Eve. For myself, while I never could put into words what I thought other churches were missing, I knew immediately once I saw a mass for myself. After all, if we are in fact in the presence of the Creator of the Universe; shouldn’t we act as such? I don’t mean false piety or some sort of showmanship that manufactures or tries to re-create a false sense of holiness. I mean by words and actions that reflect an honest and sincere reaction to an encounter with God Himself.
We get dressed up for weddings, graduations, plays, recitals, funerals, and the like. We know we are expected to conduct ourselves with a certain amount of respect and decorum at these events. Even if we are not told, or cannot speak the language, everyone can recognize the solemnity of a funeral or wedding. Yet, too many times, I have been to church services where I am left feeling as if it is more like a pep rally, or meeting of a local lodge, rather than meeting with and worshiping the Savior of all mankind.
This first advent season reinforces the awe and wonder towards both worship and the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Christ while looking forward to His return. I think that the world at large could use more of the advent type of reflection in the leading up to the celebration of Christmas. If they did, we might not have people trampled for Black-Friday, or run-away commercialism in every store after Halloween. If we (myself included) did more to focus on the reasons for our celebration and if the symbols we use were explained and respected more often, Christmas might not be so hard for so many.
-A Brother in Christ