First Advent: How to make Advent a part of RCIA
The season of Advent is a very powerful season for the Catholic Church, and one that can be overlooked for those who are going through RCIA. It can also be a challenge for the team to try to convey the meaning and power of what Advent is about. This particular post hopes to help inspire ways to make those going through RCIA, as well as those who are sponsoring or helping facilitate, a memorable and powerful experience.
What Exactly IS Advent?
Advent comes from the Latin ‘Adventus’, which means ‘coming’. It is the start of many different denominations, including Catholic, new liturgical year. It also is a way for us to prepare for the coming of Christ into the world. Advent is a four week period, usually highlighted with readings and a lighting of a candle during those readings.
The priests will wear different colored vestments during this period, usually purple or blue, although purple is the traditional color. Rose colored vestments are also worn, usually on the third and fourth Sunday of Advent. Those two Sundays are known as Gaudete and Laudete, respectively.
Advent is usually a very different time for the Mass. The Gloria is not normally sung or spoken during the time of Advent, to maintain the reverence of the coming of Jesus into the world.
At home, Advent is a time for deep spiritual prayer. There are candles that are lit in succession as the period of Advent progresses, starting with one candle to four, with readings to help one become more in touch with the Word. There are Advent calendars with structured readings, or you can create your own, the preference is yours. I recommend starting with structured readings for this period, so you get in the habit of doing the readings.
How Does Advent Relate to RCIA?
Advent can be a very confusing time for those who are going through the process of RCIA, particularly since the candidate or catechumen may not even be familiar with the term. However, because it is such an important part of the Church, it truly is something that needs to be addressed and help those going through the process to better understand what it is about.
After all, Advent truly does correlate with the journey that the candidate or catechumen is on. Advent is the period of waiting for Jesus’ birth, much like the waiting for the rebirth of the candidate or catechumen, particularly the catechumen. For those going through the RCIA process, this should be a period of deep reflection, particularly since part of this process will have a break (at least it did for me) where there will be no classes. So setting up the candidate and catechumen for a good Advent is crucial to making sure they come back when classes resume ready to go and inspired.
Some good ways that I can think of that will help those candidates and catechumens to have a good first Advent are:
- A month before the first Sunday of Advent, there is a talk about Advent, and what it means.
- The candidates and catechumens are given resources, either handouts or websites, to help them understand what Advent is about.
- Structured reading plans could be handed out along with instructions on how to use these in conjunction with lighting of the candles at home.
- Giving each candidate and catechumen an Advent wreath with instructions on how they are used.
Helping to put down a good base for understanding Advent for the candidate and catechumen during RCIA should help them remain engaged and inspired. RCIA is a journey, and it seems like a long journey. However, if the candidates and catechumens have the break of time periods, it may help to keep them focused and learning more about the faith in which they are getting into.
What Advent means to me
I wanted to share with you what I see for Advent, particularly because it is a waiting period, waiting for Jesus to be born, but more importantly, for Mary to have a child that she knows is the child of God. Advent is when I really think of the sacrifice that Mary went through. What must have been going through her mind at this time? I know that many of us who are parents have those same questions, but for Mary this might have been even more pronounced. After all, she was told by an angel that she was carrying the Son of God. Mary gave birth and struggled immediately with child, having a child in a manger as we learn.
While historians differ on what exactly a manger was during the time of Jesus, what is important to know is that Jesus was born into a very dirty and turbulent environment. His life was in danger right away because of Herod feeling threatened by the new king.
It is also important to note about Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Joseph accepted Jesus into his life as his own, and gave the child life as well. He is a wonderful example of what a father is, even to those who are not necessarily of his own flesh and blood. When it came time for the family to flee the coming wrath of Herod, Joseph did not delay in taking action to protect his family. His self sacrifice is a testament to his character, and shows when Jesus begins his ministry.
What does Advent mean to you?
I would love to know what you think of for Advent. Please take a moment to reflect on what Advent means to you, and leave a comment below.
And remember… the journey does not end when you accept Jesus into your life…. It begins. So Go Live Your Faith today!