|Archbishop Charles Chaput|
In 2006, Archbishop Charles Chaput, the former Archbishop of Denver and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, offered some instructive observations about Advent:
Catholics observe these last few weeks every year before Christmas as the season of Advent. It’s a time when the Church asks us to prepare our lives to receive Jesus the child at Christmas, and Jesus the king at the end of time. How can we best do that? The tradition of the Church tells us by vigil and by prayer.
The season of Advent is a vigil. The word “vigil” means to keep watch during normal sleeping hours, to pay attention when others are sleeping. It comes from a very old Indo-European word “weg,” which means “be lively or active.” So to keep vigil or to be vigilant does not mean passive waiting but active, restless waiting, expectant waiting for the Lord. It means paying attention to what is going on in the world around us, and not being asleep. It means acting, living out our mission to be God’s agents in the world.
The Advent tradition of the Church is vigil and prayer.
There are two places in the New Testament — 1 Corinthians and Revelation — where we find a prayer in the Aramaic language, the Semitic dialect spoken by Jesus. Since this prayer is in Aramaic it must come from the very earliest days of the Church. The prayer is “Marana tha” and means “Lord, come!”
St. Augustine tells us that God is indebted to us, not because of anything we have done, but because of His promises. God always keeps His promises. So we call on Him to come again.
Our Advent prayer is “Lord, come!”
Lord, come — into our world!
Lord, come — into our lives!
Lord, come — and purify our longings!
Lord, come — to free us from our compulsions and sins!
Lord, come — into our relationships!
Lord, come — into our work!
Lord, come — into our sufferings!
And into the darkness of our troubled world.
We speak these words — “Marana tha” — with a real and confident urgency, not only for ourselves and our personal lives, but also for our Church and our nation.
The Maranatha! Singers have a more joyful sounding approach to keeping vigil for Advent.