Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns us: “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” We are to “keep awake” for the Lord will come unexpectedly. This reading refers to Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time, but we can also apply it to our daily lives. We encounter Christ in the members of our family, in the people we work with, and in the poor and needy around us. In these encounters, we need to be alert to the gentle action of the Holy Spirit within us, so that we can welcome Christ and hear the words he speaks to us.
The Advent season is a time of prayer, a time to examine our hearts, to reflect on our lives and on its meaning and purpose. In the ordinary events of our lives, we can become so caught up with ourselves that we miss the big picture. We can easily miss our God, who loves us and is always with us and speaks to us through these events. We can become weary and discouraged by our sins and weaknesses; or we can become complacent in our spiritual lives. In the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, we join together in prayer that God will give us the grace to run forth to meet our Saviour with good deeds, and with the joy and peace which is the gift of his Spirit.
Our diocese has now begun a special time devoted to our spiritual renewal. Programs, such as Arise Together in Christ and others that are being used in our parishes, will help us enter more fully into the season of Advent. They help us prepare for the coming of Christ in our lives.
On the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This year, we will also be introducing the changes in the revised Roman Missal. In 2000, Blessed Pope John Paul II announced that there would be a revision of the Missal. One of the purposes of the revision was to ensure that translations of the Latin text would make more effective use of the imagery and language of the Sacred Scriptures and early Church writings.
The essentials of the Mass will not change, but there will be changes in the posture we use during Mass (e.g., in the bow before receiving communion), in the liturgical calendar of saints approved for Canada (e.g., the addition of St. André Bessette on January 7), and in the English translation of the text (e.g., the response “and with your spirit”). The revised Roman Missal for use in French is expected in the next few years.
During the past year, I have been extremely impressed with the efforts that our diocese has made to prepare for the full implementation of the revised Roman Missal. The introduction of the changes provided us with a unique opportunity for solid instruction on the Eucharist. I was heartened by the positive response of our people. It demonstrated a desire on their part to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist. I am very grateful to our people for their collaboration and support, and to our parish choirs and musicians for their hard work in learning the new music that will be used at Mass.
An enormous amount of work was done in preparing materials and in organizing workshops to help us with the changes. I especially want to thank Sister Loretta Manzara, C.S.J., the implementation committee, and the Institute for Catholic Formation for all they did to ensure that our diocese would be well prepared for the liturgical changes.
The implementation of the revised Roman Missal is a moment of grace for our diocese. May the Holy Spirit inspire and encourage us in our implementation of these changes.
I conclude this reflection with the prayer from the First Sunday of Advent that will be said after communion:
May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated, profit us, we pray, for even now, as we walk amid passing things, you teach us by them to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures.
May God bless all of us this Advent and open our hearts as we prepare for the coming of Christ!
Most Rev. Ronald Fabbro, C.S.B.
Bishop of London