Thursday, 27 November 2014

30/11/14 Be on your guard, stay awake!

First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Welcome to a little liturgy and the start of a new Church year.  This week all the readings refer to the Lord's return.  Isaiah is waiting for the coming of the Messiah and we are waiting for the second coming as we also wait for Christmas.  Of course waiting is something that we all find difficult; sometime we are impatient for things to happen or sometimes we fall asleep!  The second activity this week is designed to explore the structure of the Mass and show how we prepare for the consecration and receiving Christ in the Eucharist; a sort of mini advent leading to a mini Christmas.  I hope you enjoy the journey!

Summary of Liturgy of the Word

First Reading
Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1,3-8
Isaiah talks directly to God and addresses him as "our Father".  He asks God to come back and help us stay away from sinful things.  We are, he says, unclean and like withered leaves and we need guidance.  At the end of the reading he calls God "our Father" again and says to him "we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand".  

Ps 79:2-3, 15-16, 18-19. R. v.4
God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.  

Second Reading
Corinthians 1:3-9
St Paul opens with "May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace."  He says that he thanks God that the Corinthians have been blessed  and enriched by good teachers.  He says also that Christ will keep us strong until he comes on the last day.  

Mark 13:33-37
Jesus tells his disciples to "Be on your guard, stay awake because you never know when the time will come".  He says we are like servants left behind to look after a house when their master is gone travelling.  We must always have the house in a good state for when he returns; we must not fall asleep and be surprised when the master comes home.  


It is interesting to note that in the first reading Isaiah addresses God as "our Father"; Christ's recommendation to the apostles when they ask him how to pray is exactly the same.  Isaiah is eager for the presence of God and recognises his power.  He also recognises that God's people have strayed from the right path and neglected to think about the important things, "we had long been rebels against you".  He ends with the beautiful image of us being the clay and God being the potter.  On the one hand, this links us back to Adam at the dawn of creation but also looks forward to us giving ourselves to God so that we can be moulded into his people.  

The psalmist echoes Isaiah asking God to come to our aid and promising that "we shall never forsake you again".  There is a clear sense that we are dwelling in sin and need to be saved by the Redeemer.  

Moving to the New Testament we see that we have encountered God and enjoyed the gifts of the spirit.  We are the people who have been joined to Christ.  Yet we too are a people in waiting for the last day.  

The Gospel shows Christ acting in his role as prophet.  He tells us to expect the master of the house at any hour; we are to be ready to receive him and demonstrate our faithful service.  So we are more fortunate, in a way, than Isaiah who did not witness Christ's presence on earth.  We have met our redeemer and have the opportunity to meet him in the Eucharist.  However, we must not be complacent and must stay awake for an even more significant encounter.     

Activity during Mass

The first reading is full of powerful imagery describing God and his people.  Use a separate piece of paper to draw out some of the images:

Isaiah would like God to tear the heavens open and come down.

If he did that, the mountains would melt.

We are like unclean men in filthy clothing.

We are like withered leaves and our sins blow us away like the wind.

We are like clay and God is the potter.

Just like in Advent when we wait for the coming of Christ, at Mass we wait for Christ to come to us in the Eucharist.  We come together around the altar to honour him.  Read through the structure of the liturgy below and follow it as we progress through the Mass today:

1)  Opening - sign of the cross

2)  Penitential rite - asking forgiveness for our sins

3)  Liturgy of the Word - listening to the Prophets and Jesus teaching us

4)  Homily - listening to the apostles of today teaching us

5)  Creed - saying what we believe

6)  Prayers of the Faithful - asking God to help us with specific things

7)  Offertory - offering our sacrifice with Christ to God

8)  Consecration - witnessing God becoming flesh and blood on the altar

9)  Our Father - praying together 

10)  Lamb of God - asking for mercy as our sins are taken away

11)  Communion - becoming one with God

At this point it is a bit like witnessing the first Christmas.  We are, like the shepherds, able to be close to Christ and receive him into our lives. 

12)  Final Blessing and Dismissal

Now that we have met Jesus, we are able to go out into the world and proclaim his message.   

We had some spare time this week so I have printed these stages of the liturgy onto small cards for my son to draw on and take to Mass.  Hopefully he can use them to keep his place!  I will let you know how this goes next week!

Other useful resources and activities

1)  Listen to this hymn "Abba Father" and think about Isaiah's beautiful metaphor of God as the potter and us as the clay.  

hymn on youtube

2)  Isaiah says that we have "withered like leaves".  Consider what has happened to a leaf when it withers.  You might like to collect some examples and make a collage or draw some withered leaves.  What is Isaiah saying about us?

3)  St Paul refers to "the last day" and Jesus says that we must stay awake for the day when the master of the house comes.  These phrases are difficult to understand but are generally accepted to refer to the end of time on earth.  Theologians have spent a lot of time thinking about this; there is even a special word for the study of this which is "eschatology".  

Click on the link to find out more - the Christian eschatology section takes you to further discussion.  You can also look at how other religions deal with this subject.

More info


Last week's question

How will I be able to tell that it's Advent when I come to church next week?


When you come to church this week, one of the first things you will notice is that the priest's vestments and altar cloths will be a violet or purple colour.  Last week they were gold to celebrate Christ as King; this week the colour is associated with penance and preparation.  

You may also see an advent wreath which has a purple candle for each of the four Sundays in Advent and a white candle to be lit on Christmas Day.  This helps us count down to Christmas.  Each week we move a little further away from darkness into light.  

As we know from last week, there will be no Gloria for the duration of Advent as we are focusing more on the preparation for Christmas and will sing it again on Christmas Day to celebrate the Incarnation. 

This week's collect (normally the prayer just after the Gloria) talks about the people who will "run forth to meet Christ".  This is referring to us waiting for the Lord at Christmas.  The Gospel also speaks of us as a people in waiting for Christ to come.   

You will hear lots of celebratory Christmas Carols in other places in December but in church you will only find Advent carols which are about waiting.  

You can listen to one on this link:

Advent Carol

This week's question

Was Jesus actually born on 25th December?

Log on next week for the answer!

Best wishes for the week!


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