In Advent we recite beautiful prayers of longing and waiting; we sing hymns of hope and anticipation and we light candles in the darkness to remind us of God’s faithful love. Every year we gather all of our yearnings, and faithful expectations into one word: “Come.” What a unique prayer this is!
Jesus has already come; he has shared our life among us with its joys and challenges, and at the end he will reveal the resurrection. It is also true that Jesus will come again, not that he has really gone away, but that his final coming will embrace humanity for all eternity. As St. Augustine stated, we live our lives each day between these two comings of Jesus. The risen Lord remains with us in Word and Sacrament. But still Jesus will come again, which is the Truth we live each day, and celebrate with great solemnity, at Christmas, his first coming.
Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this “marvelous exchange” [CCC 526].
Behold, Jesus comes. His coming finds its incarnational fulfillment in the present moment. This is the single moment of anticipation that we celebrate in Advent which is reflected in our unique prayer of invocation, “Come.”
Each year in the liturgical season of Advent, I am inspired by the works of service and charity that have been undertaken to address the needs of those living in poverty, underemployment, loneliness, illness, etc. For me, these are clear signs that we understand and embrace the Advent spirit of prayer – that we anticipate that Jesus is always among us. Such encounters transform us and society when we come together to serve those who are in need. Often those who serve acknowledge that they receive more in return than they feel they give. This Christian memory reflects the goodness and deep belief that is present in parish communities when they are transformed when serving the poor during Advent.
Volunteers at Feed the Hungry serve a weekly Sunday meal in downtown Calgary at the Cathedral hall to 500 - 700 individuals and families who are in need. The faithful of the Diocese initiated this outreach to the poor more than 24 years ago and it continues to provide a home-cooked meal on 50 weekends every year. The volunteers and sponsors come from the diocese, other faith traditions and the local community. This outreach has been a consistent witness to the faith in our city centre. With gratitude we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society dedicate themselves to befriending and serving the poor and visiting them in their homes. St. Vincent de Paul inspires their work saying, “We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.” Their good works include responding to requests for food, and providing help in paying bills to avoid eviction or having gas, power cut off. The Vincentian mission is to live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy. Each Christmas, in addition to their service all year, Vincentians deliver thousands of food hampers to families and individuals. With gratitude we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Parishioners are involved as members or as contributors to Caritas International – Development and Peace and in so doing, they work to create greater global justice as they act in solidarity with the most poor and vulnerable. Their campaigns raise our awareness and coordinate our response to the urgent needs of those impacted by hunger, war, famine and natural disasters throughout the world. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”
The Catholic Women’s League addresses the issue of homelessness through their Provincial Legislation Standing Committee. This advocacy for the needs of others happens when women of faith identify the needs surrounding them in their communities. And through their fundraising and stewardship, the Knights of Columbus have given more than $2,300,000 to charities on behalf of member Knights in the Alberta-NWT Jurisdiction. To date, more than 90 charitable causes have received financial support from the Knights’ foundation. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”
For 20 years, The Carillon has played a tremendous role in witnessing, sharing and promoting the vibrant faith and ministries of the Diocese. From the beginning, The Carillon was edited and published by a team of faithful individuals dedicated to the task of producing a monthly communication to celebrate, support and promote the faith life of our parish communities. Under the committed leadership of Monique and Myron Achtman, the publication has served as an important link in our pastoral communication network. I join with my predecessor, Bishop Fred Henry, and the faithful of the Diocese to thank Monique and Myron for 20 years of faithful service. I want to express my appreciation for the legacy of this publication, which has faithfully chronicled this life of faith and witness to Jesus alive in our diocese. The enduring quality of any work is often refined in its ability to adapt to change and to respond to emerging needs. In that regard, I also want to express my appreciation and admiration for the way in which Monique and Myron have embraced this time of change and contributed their talents to ensure a smooth transition to a new format for this publication. With gratitude we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”
This Advent/Christmas season also awakens in me a spirit of gratitude for the words of encouragement, support and prayers that I have received. I note the witness of pastoral charity exhibited by the priests, the deacons who exercise the role of Christ the servant, the presence of the religious communities who offer their unique charisms and a witness to holiness, the co-responsibility of the lay faithful as a living sign of Christ in the world, the role of the teachers and catechists in our schools and parishes, and the essential gift of family life that is shared so readily in an expression of sacrificial love and an openness to new life.
Finally, to those working at the Pastoral Centre with whom I collaborate daily, I am grateful for the dedication and cooperation that we share in serving the needs of God’s people. Daily, the Spirit calls to my mind the need to ponder these gifts in my life and ministry and in the spirit of Mary “to treasure these in my heart.” With gratitude I pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”
It is my prayer that in this Christmas season, the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Eucharist may strengthen all the faithful so that we will be confirmed in the Joy of the Gospel. May God, who is always coming into our lives, grant us the grace to live now, in this time of Advent, in such a way that we joyfully proclaim his coming, at Christmas, that embraces all humanity.
☩ William McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary