We begin a new liturgical year of grace. It’s the First Sunday of Advent. We prepare for the Lord’s Coming. Last Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King in the Novus Ordo, we underscored the Second Coming of the Lord, who will unmake the world in fire. Advent welds the end of the world with the world’s rebirth in the new Adam, Emanuel, the Incarnate Word. Advent is a time of penitential joy, joyful penance. We fast before we feast.

The season of Advent, and its rush to Christmas, can bring forth from the battered, grizzled and labour-laden a childlike anticipation which I hope no one ever loses. “Unless you be converted, and become as little children …”

Speaking of childlike, the foundress of the Good Shepherd Sisters, St Mary Euphrasia Pelletier (d 1868), wrote of Advent in a little book of conferences, My Daughters:

“Dearest daughters, during this time we must constantly think about the self – abasement of our God, desiring to meet Him in Holy Communion as the Patriarchs longed for the coming of the Messiah. Prepare for it with fervent aspirations. You can, in this way, fill your minds while you work. Those who do the laundry, putting up with the cold, can yearn for their Saviour and think of His sufferings in the manger where He had neither roof nor covering.

“I’m sure, my poor dears, that you, who washed all day yesterday in the icy cold, must have really suffered; but I am also sure that such a day offered to God will have been very meritorious; I am convinced too, that all our Sisters who work so hard will not have much purgatory, so long as they take care to do everything to please God.

“From now on we shall choose our companions on our journey to the stable in Bethlehem – you are quite free; some will go with the shepherds, some with the Magi. I must admit I always go with the shepherds, I daren’t aim any higher! I love those poor shepherds who, as soon as they heard the call, left behind their crooks and hastened to Jesus. They did not say, “But who will mind our sheep; the wolves will devour them and we don’t know where we are going.” No arguing, no thinking it over – just go!

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