First Sunday of Advent – Sanctification of Advent
My dear children : In about four weeks we shall celebrate Christmas. The holy season of Advent, which begins to-day, is a preparation for the commemoration of the Christmas festival. The Church admonishes us to begin this preparation at once by the words of St. Paul: “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.” Perhaps many of us have fallen asleep in sin. If so, during the holy season of Advent we ought to rouse ourselves from this dangerous sleep and earnestly begin to work out our salvation.
First of all, children, the Church exhorts us to do penance, and for this reason she forbids the solemnizing of marriage during Advent, and uses the violet color during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By penance we prepare the way for the dear Infant Saviour to come to our hearts.
Once there was a little girl of eleven years of age who was very troublesome and idle. Always liking her own way, she became quite angry at the least contradiction. This went for so long a time that her superiors despaired of ever being able to correct her.
But suddenly an unexpected change came over her. Her evil habits entirely disappeared and she became one of the most obedient children in school. One of her teachers observing that, from time to time, she put her hand upon her breast and pressed it against something she carried there, asked her why she did so.
Blushing and confused, the child whispered these words: “It is to help me to be good.”
“How can that help you to be good, my child?” she asked.
With some hesitation the little one drew forth from under the band of her dress a large crucifix which was suspended from her neck by a ribbon. “Sister, I wish to do penance,” she said, “and I want to prepare myself well for the Feast of Christmas. When I am tempted to be naughty, I press this image to my heart, and then I find it easy to be good.” And the good Sister understood that it was Jesus Himself and the thought of His sufferings that had wrought such a change in this little girl.
You, dear children, should also think frequently of the sufferings of Jesus and make acts of contrition for your sins which caused them.
All of us should do penance by mortification. It is by curbing our passions, by checking our vanity, pride, avarice, anger and self-love that we become dearer to God. The guarding of our senses is very essential, my dear children, especially the eyes, the ears, and the tongue. We must practice these mortifications, partly to prevent future sins, partly to satisfy for sins committed. This is a good way to prepare for a worthy confession during the holy season of Advent. Not only is this a time of penance—it is also a time of prayer, for penance and prayer go together. There never was a saint who was not given to prayer. In your Bible history you read of the great Apostle, St. Paul, who shut himself up in Damascus and spent three days and three nights in prayer, neither eating nor drinking.
Pray, then, during Advent with greater zeal and fervor than heretofore. If you have been careless in saying your morning and night prayers, resolve to be punctual in their recital henceforth. Do not look for any excuse to stay away from Holy Mass on Sundays and holidays, and, if possible, come to church on week-days to assist at this sublime sacrifice.