During the holy season of Advent we naturally focus our attention on the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. His incarnation is the greatest event in the history of the universe and it changes everything for the human race. Having been lost in sin, we rejoice in the birth of our Saviour, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
In the crib, we see the infant lying helpless in a manger, vulnerable and weak. With the eyes of faith, we are moved with wonder and thanksgiving that God who created the universe makes humbles Himself to become an infant out of love for us.
Advent also reminds us of the second coming of Christ at the end of time when He will appear no longer in weakness but in power and glory to judge the world. Advent is a season of penance, a time for us to renew our life of faith, to put Christ first, to pray every day, to be generous in coming to Mass, and to make a good confession in preparation for the feast day.
Our Lord also wishes to make His advent in our own hearts, to dwell with us and abide with us. This indwelling begins at Baptism, but can be lost through our own unfaithfulness. Advent is a time of repentance when we come back to Christ, asking for His forgiveness and grace.
It is good that we share this feast with many in the world around us and we pray that some will come to faith, moved by the loving kindness of the infant Jesus, and helped by our own witness to the joy and glory of this Christian festival.
We sing the Marian anthem in the parish after sung Masses, after Benediction on Friday evening, and after the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on Saturday.
From the first Sunday of Advent until the feast of Candlemas (2 February) the Marian anthem is the Alma Redemptoris Mater (“Loving Mother of the Redeemer.”)
This beautiful chant, dating back to the 11th century, is mentioned in the Canterbury Tales. Here is the Latin text:
Alma Redemptoris Mater, quæ pervia cæli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quæ genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.
and here is an English translation:
Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.
On Sunday 6 November at 3pm, Deacon Ambrose will lead prayers at St John’s Cemetery, Manston Road, Margate, at the Catholic section in the middle of the cemetery. He will then go round to bless individual graves.
A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions (confession, communion, prayers for the Holy Father) by those who visit a cemetery from 1-8 November and pray for the faithful departed.
Part of our daily prayers should be contrition which is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” (Catechism 1451) This healthy sorrow is quite different from an unhealthy “free-floating” guilt.
We might be sorry because our sins deserve God’s punishments, most notably the punishment of eternal damnation which causes us to fear, or because our sins disgust us and make us feel unworthy. This kind of sorrow is called “imperfect contrition” and if it is brought to the sacrament of penance, is enhanced and perfected by God’s grace.
Perfect contrition is sorrow for sin out of the purer motive of the love of God. We consider how much God loves us, and out of love for Him in return, we repent of having offended Him. It is very helpful to consider the crucifix or the Stations of the Cross which show us in simple and graphic human terms how much God loves us.
If we have committed a mortal sin, that is to say, something serious which we have done knowing it is gravely wrong and with the full consent of the will, then we need to receive absolution in the sacrament of confession before receiving Holy Communion again.
In the case of less serious, or venial sins, we may be forgiven by a sincere act of contrition. It is still a salutary practice to confess our venial sins regularly to receive God’s grace to help us grow in holiness. Our sincere sorrow is always met by the rich and abundant mercy of Christ.
From our basic Catholic catechesis, we know in that Holy Communion we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the food and life of our souls. Believing this to be true is enough to motivate us to be reverenct before the Blessed Sacrament.
If we recognise Our Lord as our merciful redeemer, friend and brother, we will also show Him reverence out of sheer joyful love for the great privilege that He gives us in allowing us to draw so close to Him as He offers to us by giving Himself to us in this sacrament. There is nothing greater that God could give us.
The fruits of Holy Communion for our souls are many. If we are contrite, our venial sins are forgiven. If we are weak and suffering from humiliating temptations, Our Lord strengthens us in the spiritual battle. If we are suffering, He gives us His protection and consolation.
Receiving Holy Communion increases sanctifying grace in us, that sunshine of the soul by which we grow and flourish in the spiritual life. This is equivalent to a growth in love for God as a living friendship within our soul, the root of genuine holiness of spirit.
This great sacrament overflows beyond our personal lives to our families and especially to the Church. It is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, binding the parish, the diocese and the whole Catholic Church in a bond of unity in Jesus Christ our Eucharistic Lord. In turn, we are called to go out to the world to bring Our Lord to others.
The Rosary is a form of prayer that is suitable for all, whatever their intellectual ability, social circumstances or culture. It is essentially a way of meditating simply on the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the company of Our Lady, asking for her intercession to assist our prayers and purify them.
The fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are rooted firmly in the Gospel. We ponder how Our Lord taught us by his words, demonstrated God’s love by His miracles, and redeemed us by His redeeming sacrifice on the Cross, rising again to bring eternal life to us.
As a form of prayer, the Rosary has been particularly recommended by Our Lady. We note especially the giving of the Rosary to St Dominic, the saving of Christian Europe at various times, and the message which our Immaculate Mother gave to the children of Fatima.
In 1571, St Pius V invoked the help of Our Lady in the Rosary against the aggression of the Ottoman force which threatened Christianity. Today, we have many urgent and pressing needs for which it is right to invoke the help of Our Lady through the means of prayer that she has encouraged us to use.
One of the most powerful uses of the Rosary is to say it together as a family. The fifteen minutes that it takes are not much when we consider how much time we spend on other things, yet the benefits of praying together in this way are incalculable. May Our Lady bring many families closer to Christ through this prayer.
We venerate the saints to give glory to God for His wonderful works in them, to ask for their assistance, and to imitate their virtues. St Gregory was one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church, a teacher whose writings are of perennial value.
He put his natural gifts at the service of the Church, being a wise and unimpeachable leader who taught others how to exercise authority and pastoral care. He was drawn to the contemplative life in the monastery and, although God called Him away from this life, he continued to write spiritual works for others to lead them in the path of prayer.
St Gregory is often pictured with a dove speaking into his ear, representing the Holy Spirit. He combined an effective practical apostolate with an experiential knowledge of the journey of the soul in its relationship with God through prayer and charity.
He is also renowned for helping to give shape to the sacred liturgy of both East and West, and for promoting the music of the Church which is in continuity with the sacred music of the Jewish people that was known and used in prayer by Jesus Christ Himself. Our celebration of Mass today owes much to St Gregory’s care and reverence for the form of our worship.
As we celebrate the feast of our holy patron, we ask for his prayers for our parish, that we may learn from him in our worship and in our evangelisation. In our own prayers, we ask for the wisdom and perseverance that he showed by his own teaching and example.
Our faith teaches us that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. We find this doctrine spelt out in the Creed which we say at Mass. This magnificent statement of faith comes from the great Councils of the Church of the 4th and 5th centuries and is a touchstone of orthodox Christianity.
Since He is God, the man Jesus Christ is all-powerful, all-knowing and infinitely loving. In the gospels He teaches with divine authority and works great miracles. His resurrection from the tomb is the final and definitive demonstration of His divine nature. The disciples adored Him as truly God.
Since He is man, God the incarnate Word was born in time, was hungry, suffered pain, and grew in human wisdom and knowledge. He grieved at the death of Lazarus his friend, and he showed human affection to St John the beloved disciple, as to St Mary Magdalene and, of course, His mother, the Immaculate Virgin Mary.
In the person of Jesus Christ, God has humbled Himself to come close to us. In the carols we sing at Christmas, we rejoice at how approachable this makes God for us. We need to keep this in mind when we come to the Church where Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament on our altar.
Jesus invites us to trust in Him absolutely. The devotion of the Sacred Heart is particularly helpful in our friendship with Christ because it shows for us the infinite divine love expressed in a human way that we can understand.