Mass Propers for the First Sunday of Advent:
Entrance Antiphon, Cf. Ps 25 (24):1-3, 124:
To you, I lift up my soul, O my God. In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in you be put to shame.
Alleluia Verse, Ps 85:8:
Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.
Preface I of Advent:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.
And so, with Angels and Archangels,
with Thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:
Communion Antiphon, Cf. Ps 85 (84):13:
The Lord will bestow his bounty, and our earth shall yield its increase.
For Catholics, the new Liturgical Year commences with the First Sunday of Advent, opening the Advent season. In this new Liturgical Year, the Church not only wishes to indicate the beginning of a period, but the beginning of a renewed commitment to the faith by all those who follow Christ, the Lord. This time of prayer and path of penance that is so powerful, rich and intense, endeavors to give us a renewed impetus to truly welcome the message of the One who was incarnated for us. In fact, the entire Liturgy of the Advent season, will spur us to an awakening in our Christian life and will put us in a ‘vigilant’ disposition, to wait for Our Lord Jesus who is coming:
‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.’1
The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, who will give the ‘Light’ to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but essentially this time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to incarnate it in our lives. We could say that the true light enters the world through the immaculate womb of Mary but it does not stay there. On the contrary, this light flows out into our dark, obscure, sinful lives to illuminate them, so that we can become the light that illuminates the world. For this reason, let us live this time of waiting not only to celebrate a historical memory but to repeat this memory in our lives and in the service of others. To wait for the Lord who comes, means to wait and to watch so that the Word of Love enters inside us and focuses us every day of our lives.
As Saint John Henry Newman reminded us in a homily for the Advent Season: “Advent is a time of waiting, it is a time of joy because the coming of Christ is not only a gift of grace and salvation but it is also a time of commitment because it motivates us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. This ‘vigilance’ means the necessity, the urgency of an industrious, living ‘wait.’ To make all this happen, then we need to wake up, as we are warned by the apostle to the Gentiles, in today’s reading to the Romans: ‘Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed’ ” (Rm 13:11).
We must start our journey to ascend to the mountain of the Lord, to be illuminated by His Words of peace and to allow Him to indicate the path to tread (cf. Is 2:1-5). Moreover, we must change our conduct abandoning the works of darkness and put on the ‘armor of light’ and so seek only to do God’s work and to abandon the deeds of the flesh (cf. Rm 13:12-14). Jesus, through the story in the parable, outlines the Christian life style that must not be distracted and indifferent but must be vigilant and recognize even the smallest sign of the Lord’s coming because we don’t know the hour in which He will arrive (cf. Mt 24:39-44).
1 Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of First Vespers of Advent, Vatican Basilica, December 2006
—Excerpted from Dicastery for the Clergy
The First Sunday of Advent marks the new Liturgical Year, and the Church shifts into a new Lectionary Cycle for Sundays, with 2022-23 returning to Cycle A, the Gospel of St. Matthew. In the Sunday Gospel (Matthew 24:37-44) Jesus invites us to recognize the signs of the last days. This is a reminder that Advent is not just looking back at the first coming of Christ at Christmas, but our personal preparation for His Second Coming: “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come….you also must be prepared, for an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
The traditional Collect (Opening Prayer) of the last Sunday of the Church year began “Stir up the wills of Thy faithful people, we beseech Thee, O Lord…” With this request to God to “stir up” our wills, this day was traditionally called Stir-Up Sunday. Because the Ordinary Form celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the year, “Stir-Up Sunday” can now be the First Sunday of Advent. The traditional Collect of the First Sunday is asking God to stir up His might: “Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come.” Many families create a traditional plum pudding or fruit cake or some other recipe that all the family and guests can “stir-up.” This activity of stirring-up the ingredients symbolizes our hearts that must be stirred in preparation for Christ’s birth.
What You Need to Know About Advent
- A Short Explanation of the Advent season and Its Significance in the Liturgical Year
- The History, Customs and Folklore of Advent
- Resources for Celebrating Advent in the Home
Sunday Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Cycle A:
The First Reading is taken from Isaiah 2:1-5. Today’s lesson from Isaiah contains one of the encouraging speeches which God’s great prophet addressed to his fellow-Jews, to help them persevere in their faith in God. Days of distress and tribulation lay ahead. Jerusalem, their beloved and holy city, the site of the temple where the true God manifested his power and his mercy among them, was to be razed one day to the ground, because of their sins. But when the great day came and God fulfilled his promises to them, Jerusalem would once more be the glory and the pride, not only of the Jews, but of all nations.
This prophecy of Isaiah, spoken 700 years before the coming of Christ, has been fulfilled. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” And we today, thousands of miles from Jerusalem, and almost two thousand years after his coming among us, are preparing ourselves for the annual commemoration of that greatest event of history.
The Second Reading is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 13:11-14. In the verses chosen for today’s second reading, St. Paul urges Roman Christians to keep the purpose of their conversion, of their acceptance of the gospel, of true salvation, always before their eyes. They had accepted Christ in order to merit enteral salvation; for this reason, they must “Cast off the works of darkness,” in which they indulged before their conversion.
The Gospel is taken from Matthew 24:37-44. St. Matthew gives us a discourse which our Lord held with his disciples concerning the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the Parousia, or the second coming of Christ as judge of the world. In the verses we read today Christ is speaking of his second coming, and emphasizes its unexpectedness and suddenness.
In today’s lesson it is Christ himself who is asking each one of us so to live our lives that no matter when we are called to judgement we shall not be found wanting. This does not mean that we must always be praying. Nor does it mean that we must take no interest in the affairs of this life. Of the two men working in the field and the two women grinding corn, one of each was found unworthy, not because of the work he or she was doing, but because that work had for them wrongly excluded God and his purpose in life. The two found worthy had room for God and their own eternal welfare in their hearts—their work was part of their loyal service to God and was a means towards their salvation.
Christmas comes but once a year but its meaning, its lesson, must remain in our hearts and minds all the year round. God wants us in heaven forever. He sent his Son on earth to bring us there. Aided by God’s grace we resolve today so to live our lives that when death claims us we shall meet Christ, not as condemning judge, but as a loving brother.
—Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan, O.F.M.