Advent: New Beginnings, Renewed hope, Self-Surrender

The Church begins a new liturgical year with the season of Advent. I think this past liturgical year was the least disruptive compared to 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 liturgical cycles due to the pandemic. My question is, how did Catholics see ourselves celebrating the Sacred Mysteries this past year? My hope is that many of us found a sense of renewal, as we celebrated the liturgical season with little disruption, and in turn, found a deeper appreciation for the liturgical celebrations that many were deprived of for so long. Our longing to encounter Our Lord sacramentally hopefully helped us to realize how often we took the liturgy and the sacraments for granted. I know I am part of this group.

However, I think what is most important to think about as we journey through this Advent is: How can I be renewed again liturgically? I think there is a temptation to think that: Advent is here, back to the violet vestments, Advent wreath and candles, etc. But there is something beyond just the exterior signs in our churches and homes. These external signs should be reflective of an interior mood of desiring new beginnings, and renewed hope in Our Lord, Jesus Christ. After years of the pandemic, we must never again take the liturgy for granted, nor can we let secularist ideologies or materialism consume us to the point that we find hope in those things rather than grounding our hope in Jesus Christ. Advent is a time for new beginnings, for renewed hope and let us keep our eyes fixed on the star of Bethlehem that ultimately leads us to Jesus on the day of His Nativity.

Yet, a new beginning and renewed hope is not enough. Advent calls us to have a new-self. The readings from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, as well as the Gospels of Advent lead us to reflect on that:

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the Prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

Mt 3:1-3

John’s call to repentance as foretold by Isaiah required of us to shed of our egos, so to be able to surrender to the plan of God, like Mary did at the annunciation. We may want to firmly hold on to the steering wheel, but we know not only through the Bible, but through the witness of those who follow Jesus that those who surrender themselves to God, abiding by the Gospel, that amazing things happen, as at that point, one recognizes that, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

Surrendering to God can prove to be difficult, even for those who are involved in various parish and church ministries. At times, we think we are doing the work of God, but through time, God’s work becomes more reflect of us rather than God. There can be the temptation to become attached to the work of ministry that when the Lord calls of us to another place in life, we have much difficulty letting go. We need to practice a sense of detachment in whatever work we do. We do the Lord’s work well, but we should never let our sentiments hinder us from saying “yes” to what God asks of us.

As I wrap up my undergraduate degree and spend this year in a deeper mode of discernment, I am reminded of the need to surrender all to God. Surrender does not mean giving up – no, not at all! To surrender is to continue to do the work of the Lord with you whole mind and heart but realizing that I cannot do anything without God’s guidance and assistance. Understanding that it is the work of the Lord, I am prepared to let go when He asks of me. My life and ministry are never about me, “not I but God,” said Blessed Carlo Acutis.

This notion of surrender to God is what Christmas is all about. Theologically, it is the Lord Jesus being incarnate as the “Word made flesh.” (Jn 1:14) St. Paul expresses this very well in his letter to Philippians:

…though [Jesus] was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Phil 2:6-8

Jesus – God coming down to be among us – is the ultimate model of surrender to the Father, selflessly offering himself as “salutaris hostia” for all. By renewing, placing our hope in God, and surrendering to Him, we are in various means partaking in the ongoing work of salvation and evangelization of all peoples for the glory of God. Let his Advent be that time of renewal, hope and surrender.


About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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