For Catholics, and maybe some other Christian denominations, Sunday, Dec. 1 marked the beginning of a new liturgical year. Just like Jan. 1 is the first day of a new year, the first day of the holy season of Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year, popularly known as the Liturgical year. And it always begins either late November or early December. “For just as the natural world has its calendar and its seasons marking the earth’s relation to the sun, so the Church abides by her own calendar and her own seasons, her own manner of reckoning time.
But the big difference is this: for the Church, it is all in relation to a Person, not a thing. The Church’s worship makes our lives revolve around Jesus” (cf.Magnificat, December 2019, Vol.21, No.10 p.3). During this holy season the selection of readings from the Bible, especially from the Old Testament, is filled with the message of hope — hope of a real transformation both in individuals and nations. The reason for this joyful transformation is the arrival of the expectant messiah, the anointed of God.
The liturgical year, also known as the Church calendar, begins with the season of Advent and ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King on a Sunday in late November. The Church year is divided into six seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Triduum, Easter and Ordinary Time.
In each season a certain aspect of the life of Jesus is highlighted and focused in the worship services. During Advent, the focus and emphasis is on the joyful expectation of the coming of the messiah as had been foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament. And at Christmas the Church celebrates the God-becoming-man event, the incarnation or the nativity of Jesus. Jesus-being-God Christmas is not merely the reenactment of his historical coming but His coming that is being actualized into the personal life of every believer at any given time. Hence, this personal experience of his coming into the life of a person opens up the floodgates of grace and fills up his/her heart and transforms that individual into another Christ. That’s why St. Paul in his letter to the Christians in Galatia says: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).
The Second Vatican Council’s document on the Sacred Liturgy states: “Holy Mother Church is conscious that she must celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse by devoutly recalling it on certain days throughout the course of the year.” And the document continues: “Within the cycle of a year she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the Incarnation and Birth until the Ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord. Recalling thus the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace.”
The birth of Jesus, the only Son of God, in human form, brought about the redemption of the fallen humanity. He, being God, the event of His incarnation continues to unfold in us (who are believers) His powers and merits. And His powers and merits are being made present even today that we are able to lay hold of them and become filled with saving grace. Hence, as we conform ourselves to His image we become “Christs,” thus making Him present today to our brothers and sisters in a world that is increasingly being torn apart.