What’s the difference between Advent and Lent? There are three things Advent has that Lent hasn’t got:
- The whole point of Advent is a totally different mystery: on welcoming into our hearts God who is coming to save us as a human being. This doesn’t sound so special. But it is very special when we consider that to a Jew or a Muslim, what we are preparing to celebrate is a gross blasphemy. And that, unlike the beliefs of Atheists, we don’t celebrate a totally pointless human power, but rather the very Meaning of Life in Divine Smallness – in the Baby Jesus.
- This means Advent is lived in a different way: to make our souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace
- And so also to make our souls ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world. (1)
This is what is announced to us in the First Reading. Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress. This is the point of Advent. Just like God, the Liturgy interrupts the normal flow of our life to bring us out of ourselves and back into unity with what the others are doing, and above all to turn away from our sadnesses and open our hearts again to the full and overabundant peace, joy and goodness the Baby Jesus brings to us. The Liturgy acts like God because, of course, this is what the Sacred Liturgy is:- not the action of mere people – this saves nobody; but rather the action of God himself, reaching down into the dog’s breakfast of our life to scoop us up, with our actual participation, into the life of the Trinity. This is why we call the liturgy the Sacred Liturgy, why we are reverent in it, and why we respect it, not making it up but rather humbly allowing ourselves to be carried by it and respond with our gifts within it.
There are four concrete ways we can do this. So your homework is, for the rest of Advent:
- Pray every day in front of your crib at home, asking the Lord Jesus to help you clean the manger of your heart so it is clear and empty for you to welcome him. If you don’t have a crib, get one – even if you need to make it from paper.
- Give up one thing you really like until Christmas Day – for love of the Baby Jesus.
- Give more generously to the poor during Advent.
- Repent by going to confession and being cleaned of all your sins – ready with a heart clean and empty to receive the Baby Jesus.