A reflection series from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

The word “advent” comes from the Latin term adventus, literally meaning “coming to.”  The four weeks of the season of Advent before Christmas create a unique season of hope-filled preparation for all of us in the Catholic Christian community — although it can easily be missed by society at large as simply an extended, early celebration of Christmas.  True enough, Christ has come, and we should rejoice in his Incarnation every day of our lives.  But Advent gives us all time for a prayerful “retelling” of the story of the “Hope of Israel.”  We prepare ourselves for the commemoration of Christ’s coming in history in Bethlehem, his coming in mystery each day in the Church and the Sacraments, and his coming in majesty at the end of time.

Our disposition and expectation as individual Catholics, as individual believers, truly influence and model the way in which our fellow parishioners as “communities of believers” look at Advent and incorporate its hope and excitement into their lives as Christmas approaches. Although the COVID pandemic has disrupted our ordinary lives creating physical “distance,” whether we realize it or not, we do still have a spiritual effect on one another!  

The images of Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary figure so prominently in the Scriptures we read and hear during these few, fast weeks.  And whether “in person” at Church or online, we need to let the Word sink deeply into our minds, hearts and souls.  The hymns we have always sung and the Mass prayers we pray all fix our attention in faith upon the One who has come, is coming and is yet to come, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   It is all about him, everything we are and everything we do as Catholics. 

We make every day an anticipation for yet another, more profound, more transforming revelation.  Although we have heard and sung and prayed the Advent message many times before, a pause, some quiet time of prayer, the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation all go a long way to “make all things new” … again … although the Advent and Christmas story are as old as the Church itself.

This year, permit me as your Bishop to offer some thoughts each week of Advent for your reflection, meditation and prayer, drawn from the Church’s rich spiritual treasury.



From the Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God. Luke 1: 35

“We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice (Pope St. Paul VI).”

“God’s Word is the Lord Jesus Christ, who in this last age became man among men and women to unite end and beginning, that is men and women and God. The prophets receiving the gift of prophecy from this same Word, foretold his coming in the flesh, which brought about the union and communion between God and humankind ordained by the Father.  From the beginning the word of God prophesied that God would be seen by men and women and would live among them on earth; he would speak with his own creation and be present to it, bringing it salvation and being visible to it (St. Irenaeus).”

“You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a Son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. … the price of our salvation is offered to you (St. Bernard).”

“You are also blessed because you have heard and believed.  A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works.  Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.  Let her spirit be I each to rejoice in the Lord.  Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but all bring forth Christ in faith (St. Ambrose).”

“The Lord is coming, always coming.  When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life.  Life is Advent.  Life is recognizing the coming of the Lord (Henri Nouwen).”



From the Second Reading of the Third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) of Advent:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

“Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy and poor in this world so that men who were in dire poverty and suffering great need of heavenly food might be made rich in him (St. Clare of Assisi).”

“With Christ, Mary sums up in herself all joys; she lives the perfect joy promised the Church: Mater plena sanctae laetitiae. And it is with good reason that her children on earth, turning to her who is the mother of hope and grace, invoke her as the cause of their joy (Pope St. Paul VI).”

“At Christmas when Christ comes, will he find a warm heart?  Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving others with God’s own love and concern (St. Teresa of Calcutta).”

“The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus … he entered our history; he has shared our journey.  He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light.  In him was revealed the grace, the mercy and the tender love of the Father … Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint.  The Lord never lets us down (Pope Francis).”



From the Gospel of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”  Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:2-3

“Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him.  The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord … (St. Gregory Nazianzen).”

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open the doors of hope (Pope Benedict XVI).”

“Keep God’s Word in this way.  Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life.  Feed on goodness and your soul will delight in its richness, remember to eat your Bread or your heart will wither away.  Fill your soul with richness and strength (St. Bernard).”

“John is the voice but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning.  John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives forever (St. Augustine).”

“The prophecy makes clear that it is to be filled, not in Jerusalem but in the wilderness … the prophecy meant that God was to come to a deserted place, inaccessible from the beginning … the voice commands that a way be prepared for the Word of God … so that God may find a highway when he comes … to bring all mankind the knowledge of God’s saving power (St. Eusebius of Caesarea).”



From the Gospel of the First Sunday of Advent:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come (Mark 13:33).”

“Advent is here. What a marvelous time in which to renew your desire, your nostalgia, your real longing for Christ to come --- for him to come every day to your soul in the Eucharist. The Church encourages us: ecce veniet --- he is about to arrive (St. Josemaria Escriva).”

“We do not preach only one coming of Christ but a second one as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).”

“The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace (St. Charles Borromeo).”

“Advent is synonymous with hope, not the vain waiting for a ‘faceless god’ but concrete and certain trust in the return of him who has already visited us (Pope St. John Paul II).”

“Advent is a journey toward Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God made man (Pope Francis).”

“Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us (Pope Benedict XVI).”