First Sunday of Advent

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

It will be obvious at Masses today that we have moved into a new liturgical season because the green vestments and hangings of Ordinary Time will be replaced by purple. Today is both the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new year (Year A) in the Church’s liturgical calendar.
To show that the mood of Advent is different from that of Lent which shares the same liturgical colour, many parishes use lighter violet shades for Advent decorations. This connects the church environment with the natural world as the mauve of jacaranda and agapanthus dominates many Australian gardens at this time of year
Readers will notice another change in the liturgy today – no Gloria during the Introductory Rites. The Gloria is omitted during Advent so that we might sing this hymn, which echoes of the song of the angels heralding the birth of Christ, with renewed joy and vigour on Christmas night.
I get many questions at this time of the year about the Advent wreath and candles. People get hung up about the colour of the candles, what words are on them (?), blessing the wreath, etc. I am sure it would surprise many people to learn that the Advent wreath is not mentioned anywhere in the Sacramentary. It is a family devotional symbol that has been taken over into public liturgy. But it is not always a good fit!
The constitution on the Sacred Liturgy emphasises that liturgy works through “signs perceptible to the senses” and that “how we use liturgical symbols and elements is vital”. Members of the assembly need to be able to see the wreath and the increasing number of lit candles for it to have any impact at all. Besides, evergreen branches and burning candles lose much of their significance in the middle of a hot, lush Australian summer, so other symbols which retain a sense of anticipation but which relate better to the local setting might be preferable.
Good Samaritan Sister Verna Holyhead has kindly given permission for me to reprint her poem “Advent bursts” which uses the jacaranda as a wonderful symbol of this season.

Advent bursts
violet and beautiful
like the jacaranda tree
on the very brink
of an Australian summer.
It is a tree of contradictions,
like this southern season
of the Church’s year:
green-leafed in winter,
autumn gold in spring,
blossoming from bare trunk
to welcome in November.
A myriad trumpets cluster
for short fanfares
before it lays a purple carpet
to greet its king
who is not yet – but coming.

Elizabeth Harrington