| By Teresa Peterson

In JOYful Anticipation

This time of year, we are preparing for the birth of Christ, which is indeed a glorious moment in time that changed the course of history for eternity.

We are also preparing for the end of time, when the world comes to an end or our lives come to an end. Can we also be joyful about this?

“We're always afraid of the end of time. But God wants us to look forward to the end of time with joy because we will be in the Lord’s presence and filled with His divine love. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. That’s hopeful, that’s joyful,” said Father John Tapp, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, in Dunedin.

To experience that joy and peace, it requires preparation, and that is why the Season of Advent is a gift for Catholics. 

“During Advent we should focus on our relationship with God and our relationship with the Church. We should reconcile ourselves with God and with the Church, allowing the mercy of God to wash over us so that we're better people,” said Father Tapp.

“We're not just preparing to meet the baby Jesus but also the Christ who lives, who suffered, died, and rose again,” added Father Tapp. 

“Christ is asking us to live with hope. That's one of the main themes of Advent. His birth, which we celebrate at Christmas, and His coming at the end of time are sources of hope. Hope is found in the birth of the Messiah. Hope is also found at the end of time, when God’s promises to us are fully realized.”

Father Tapp’s Five Tips for a Holy Advent

1. Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation

This sacrament of healing helps you find peace and helps restore your relationship with Christ. If your parish has a Penance Service, there will likely be visiting priests you have never met. This may be the best time to conquer fears you may have about confessing your sins to a priest. God instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation for your own spiritual well being. Christ offers you His love, mercy, and forgiveness in this sacrament.

2. Light a Candle on the Advent Wreath Each Night

Advent wreaths can be placed on the dining table and lit each night before dinner. The first week, you or a family member can light one Advent candle each night, progressing to all four Advent candles by the fourth week. Advent candles remind us that Christ is our light. He's the one who brings warmth, love, and light into our lives.

3. Focus on Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy

These are the four unofficial themes for each week of Advent. You and your family members can reflect on how to live these virtues more intentionally. For example, one week you can focus on trying to be more joyful and share examples of how you accomplished this or struggled with this.

4. Participate in Acts of Mercy and Justice

The Works of Mercy call us to provide food and clothing for people in need. Justice calls us to work together to create a culture of life and advocate for laws and policies that support the dignity of the human person.

5. Practice Progressive Solemnity

This is a discipline that encourages us to gradually enter into a liturgical season. Instead of decorating for a season all at once, we can introduce elements week by week. For example, one week during Advent, you can set up the Christmas tree. Then, wait until the following week to add the lights. Also, you can set up a Nativity scene during Advent, but wait until Christmas morning to add the figure of Baby Jesus.

Additional Resources for Having a Holy Advent

Visit www.dosp.org/advent-season

Teresa Peterson serves as Executive Director of Communications for the Diocese of St. Petersburg since 2017.