December 05, 2017

The Reason for the Season

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, which marked the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I was thinking about sharpening my writing skills again, and at the same time reflect upon my life as of late; I guess, now would be a good time to do those things.

I know that most of us are busy preparing for the holidays, or going on with our usual adulting routines, but I'm hoping that you would spend some time reading this, as I really want to share my thoughts with you. Consider this a breath of fresh air in your otherwise toxic social media feed.

My writing skills are really rusty; you can't imagine how may times I've rewritten the paragraphs above. Oy vey.

So, what do I want to talk about right now?

I don't want to get too preachy, as I know that not all of you share the same faith as I, but please understand that I have to start off with the concepts in order to relate them to everyday life [which, duh, is the whole point of reflection].

Let's start off by looking up fun facts about the season of Advent. This website caught my interest, and from what I understand:
  • Advent is traditionally known as "little Lent," where followers would practice the three pillars of Lent (i.e. fasting/ abstinence, prayer and charity) in preparation for the coming of (baby) Jesus. Note that fasting and abstinence is no longer obligatory for Advent
  • Ideally, one should go about the season as solemnly as in Lent, refraining from feasts and celebrations until Christmas Day. Christmas decorations should be put up only on Christmas Eve, with the Advent Wreath serving as the only "decoration" for the season
  • Traditions and rituals aside, the main purpose of Advent is to mentally and spiritually prepare Catholics for the coming of Jesus, who was prophesied to bring peace to the world.
As supplementary to the fun facts above, I would like to share this video, which explains the Biblical meaning of Peace (i.e. Shalom):

I like this YouTube channel as they are able to explain Biblical concepts in the most layman way.

Then, I realize I have been observing the Liturgical seasons incorrectly.

"Incorrectly" is a strong word; "impractical" might be a better choice.

Because my practice of the Catholic faith mostly involves rituals, I tend to view the Liturgical seasons as chapters of a story; watching Jesus' life and ministry unfold as if in a series or a play. 

"Oh! here's the part where Jesus is born."
"And this is when he feeds the multitude with a few loaves of bread and some fish."
"Now (SPOILER ALERT!) this is the part where he dies on the cross." 

I tend to get fixated on the events that happened on a particular feast day, rather than reflecting on the meaning and the impact that event has made to my Faith.

It's like, each time you have a birthday, someone would play a 60-minute video of your birth. Every. Single. Year. Same goes with your anniversaries, or any other special day for that matter. The events of the past are ALWAYS the main focus, but what really is important is how much you and your relationships have grown through the years.

If we use Jesus' life as a marker, and then going beyond that to see how much the Catholic Church has evolved since then, we will realize how much progress we have made (or how much work is still needed) in continuing Jesus' ministry. It will also be easier to see so how relevant Jesus' teachings are in our everyday life.

With Advent being the start of another liturgical year, I think that there is no better season than this, to ponder on how to be a better Catholic, both individually and as a community.

Sad thing is, nobody observes the season of Advent this way anymore.

We Filipinos are notoriously proud of starting their Christmas season as soon as the -ber months arrive. But even if we defend this practice by saying that we just want to prepare ahead of time (kesyo traffic and holiday sales and traffic and reunions and even more traffic), how helpful are these preparations in properly observing the season of Advent?

If the Biblical meaning of Peace is a sense of completeness, how complete do you feel after exchanging gifts, or attending office parties, or meeting up with friends, or feasting with families? Practicing Catholics should evaluate themselves, too. Does completing all the nine Masses of Simbang Gabi + the Misa de Gallo at the proper schedule (dawn Masses daw dapat para mas intense) give you the same Peace as what the Gospel authors were preaching about since the beginning of our Faith?

If Advent is an opportunity to reflect on how we are as a person, and how we relate to other people around us, do all the festivities bring you closer to one another? Or are you only going through the motions of traditions that have long lost their meaning?

Do you still look forward to the upcoming season with joy and excitement? Or with dread and inconvenience?

Ok, now I think I know how I feel. What should I do next?

I am not here to judge, nor to give you tips on how to spend your Advent purposefully. Heck, I don't even know if I'm doing a good job in preparing for Christmas.

What I do know is that by reflecting upon these things, I realize what my current state of mind is. Who knows, I may have been this way for years now, but blissfully unaware because of all the distractions of life. I don't think that I'm a "bad" Catholic--I try to practice my Faith as much as I can--, but I can't fully say that I am at Peace with myself. There are still some things missing, and while I'm not yet sure what they are, I want to do something about it.

But I guess that's another reflection to write about. Boy, what a lengthy blog post this turned out to be.

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