In his new book on The Feasts of the Church and how they form us as Catholics, Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl writes with Mike Aquilina about Advent:
In Advent the Church prepares to receive the fullness of revelation. The Scriptures proclaimed at Mass convey a sense of deep longing, but also a sure hope that God will answer the prayer of his people. During Advent the Church recalls the centuries and millennia when the world awaited the arrival of salvation. The Church remembers the oracles of the prophets of Israel, so that the world may see their fulfillment with the birth of Christ.
Yet there is another dimension to Advent. While it is about remembering the expectation of the past, it is also about intensifying the Church’s expectation for the future. For Christ has promised that He will return in glory. There will be a fullness of his revelation—and the perfection of his kingdom—at the consummation of history.….
The Church looks backward and forward during Advent, but neither dimension will distract true Christians from living in the present moment.
The story goes that one day Saint Philip Neri was shooting billiards with a group of young people, and a boy asked him what he would do if Jesus arrived right at that moment. The saint replied that he would finish the game of pool. His point was that Christians should live every minute of life in anticipation of Jesus’s coming, so that they are always ready and there will be no need for rushing alone.
Advent is a season of a confident, peaceful waiting. There is no need for rushing around. The secular world promotes these weeks as “Christmas-shopping season,” and the commercial season seems to begin earlier every year, running on an engine of anxiety. Nothing could be further from the attitude expressed by Saint Philip Neri. Nothing could be further from the spirit of anticipation taught by the prophets.