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From the Pastor 12/03/17

First Sunday of Advent

I wish all of you a blessed beginning of the Season of Advent. We have begun a new liturgical year. It is with prayer and hope that God will continue to bless our parish as we embark on another year with Jesus Christ.

I am not here this weekend. I am in Maine checking on my parents and will return on Dec. 9th. This is my last trip to Maine before winter sets in. I do not plan on going to Maine during the winter unless I have to go up for an emergency or if my parents pass away. So many of you continue to pray and ask about my parents. Thank you. I am amazed at their resilience, especially my mom with her advanced Alzheimer disease. I will again pick up my dad and we will spend time at our family camp in Poland, ME. Lots of leaves to pick up, wood to stack and keep the camp warm, and hopefully a late Thanksgiving meal with the family.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus for "coming" and is associated with the four weeks of preparations for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event. Since the 900s Advent has been considered the beginning of the Church year. This does not mean that Advent is the most important time of the year. Easter has always had this honor. The traditional color of Advent is purple or violet which symbolizes the penitential spirit. Religious traditions associated with Advent express all these themes.

Customarily the Advent Wreath is constructed of a circle of evergreen branches into which are inserted four Advent candles. According to tradition, three of the candles are violet and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit the third Sunday of Advent, for this color anticipates and symbolizes the Christmas joy announced in the first word of the Entrance Antiphon: "Rejoice" (Latin, Gaudete). For this reason the Third Sunday is also called Gaudete Sunday, and rose color vestments are permitted.

The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.

During Advent, family and friends can gather around the Advent Wreath lighting the appropriate candle(s), read from daily Advent meditation and sing songs.

As we begin the season of Advent, we especially welcome our RCIA Catechumens and Candidates in the Rite of Acceptance and Welcome at the 9:30am Mass this weekend. Please pray for all eighteen of them as they continue their journey into the Catholic Faith.

This coming Friday, Dec. 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Our Lady under this title is the Patroness of Our Country, and it is a Holy Day of Obligation for all Catholics. Please see the schedule of Masses for the Solemnity.

"Hail Mary, full of grace." For thousands of centuries, millions of times per day the Virgin Mary is greeted by the faithful with the greeting of the Archangel. We learn from the words of the Archangel Gabriel that the fullness of the mystery of God’s grace was realized in Holy Mary. St Paul the Apostle teaches us that the Father made all fullness dwell in His Incarnate Son which overflows from Christ’s head and spills out on His Mystical Body that is the Church. Before descending in Body, Christ’s fullness was spread in a unique and unrepeatable way on Mary, predestined from eternity to be the Mother of God.

Significantly Sacred Scripture recalls the figure of Eve, the mother of all the living. The Fathers of the Church saw in Mary, the new Eve that unties the knot bound by the first woman. The knot of disobedience tied by Eve, was untied by the obedience of Mary. As Eve was created in purity and integrity, also the new Eve was miraculously preserved from the contamination of original sin because she had to give humanity the Word, who was incarnated for our ransom.

Blessed Pope Pius IX on the 8th of December 1854 proclaimed the infallible dogma of the faith revealed by God that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin" If the official proclamation of the dogma is relatively recent, the profession of faith by Christians and the liturgy is very ancient in this regard. Furthermore, four years later the same Virgin Mary, appearing in Lourdes to St Bernadette, confirmed the truth of the doctrine by presenting herself with the title ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’.

God, One and Triune, had foreseen from the very beginning the future incarnation of the Word culminating in the redemption of human nature that had fallen into sin. He therefore predestined pure Mary, so that He could draw from her uncontaminated humanity, which the Son could adopt in order to reestablish in Himself the original purity of creation and reorientate it to eternal glory.

Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a direct consequence of her Divine Maternity. St Anslem of Aosta wrote: “Assuredly, it was fitting that the Virgin be beautified with a purity that which a greater cannot be conceived, except for God's. For, toward her, God the Father was so disposed to give His only Son who was naturally one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Virgin.” (Continued next week)

God bless you, and a blessed 1st Advent Week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P.,