By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 28, 2016

The First Candle

First of four, that is. I’m speaking of the Advent wreath. The progressive lighting of its four candles through the four weeks of Advent marks the drawing near of our celebration of the Lord’s nativity at Christmas. This ritual began yesterday on the First Sunday of Advent.

I hope we do more than light candles.

Advent is serious business. It highlights our need to prepare, to be ready, for the Lord’s coming! This requires deliberate and serious attention. This holy season points us not only to our commemoration of the Lord’s coming among us as a child born of the Virgin Mary but also to his coming again at the end of time and to his many “advents” in our daily lives now. The Scripture passages for Sunday teach us that readiness is a matter of having our lives rightly ordered. What does that mean?

An important symbol is the “mountain of the Lord” spoken of in the prophecy of Isaiah (2:1-5). All nations, says the prophet, will stream to this mountain, established as the highest. The mountain refers to Jerusalem. There was found the Temple, God’s dwelling and thus the place of worship. From there would go forth instruction. A rightly ordered life is one in which all of its aspects are ordered to God. The worship of God is the first and highest priority, from which follows the desire to receive his instruction and have one’s entire life enlightened by his Word. When the worship of God and obedience to his Word are given first place, all else falls into proper place. St. Paul (Romans 13:11-14) likens this to waking up from sleep, casting off darkness and living in the light.

So becoming ready through getting our lives rightly ordered means taking a serious look at how we are living and asking questions such as: what do I, in fact, worship? Myself? My possessions? Reputation? Desires? And from where do I take instruction? To what voices am I listening and giving my trust? Do I turn to the Internet? Social media? Magazines? TV shows? What is shaping my mindset?

These are tough and challenging questions, but they cannot be postponed. When Jesus speaks in the Gospel of his return (cf. Matthew 24:37-44), he makes clear that he will come at a time we simply cannot know. The conclusion is clear: the time to get our lives in order is now.

Advent is not about candles on a wreath. It is about having a life that is enlightened by right order. May God grant us the grace to clear up any disorder in our lives and thus to be ready to greet him joyfully when he comes.