Advent has begun, and with it the liturgical new year. The Church, in her wisdom, and guided by the Holy Spirit, has given us the liturgical year to draw us ever closer to God. Year after year, we walk the same path, through preparation for Christ's coming, to His birth at Christmas, through the preliminary days of His ministry and the revelation of His divinity at Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, through our preparations in Lent for Christ's death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter, and on to the Ascension and the Pentecost season, before the long, slow walk through Christ's moral teachings in Ordinary Time, up until the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday before it all begins again.
To the outside observer—and even all too often to us—it might seem like we're simply walking in circles. But we're not—or at least we shouldn't be. Every trip through the liturgical year should be a bit like walking on a path around and up a mountain: Each revolution should find us a bit closer to our goal than we were the year before. And that goal, of course, is life itself—the fullness of life in the presence of God in Heaven.
Yet every year, the Church brings us back to the basics, because we cannot make progress in our spiritual lives unless we're ready to leave the things of this world behind. In the Scripture Reading for the First Sunday in Advent, found in the Office of the Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Prophet Isaiah reminds us that simply following the rules can lead to vain sacrifices: Our actions need to be motivated by love of God and of our fellow man. Unless we "Cease doing evil, and learn to do good," we will find ourselves next Advent back at the base of the mountain, another year older but none the wiser nor holier.
As we begin this Advent, we should spend some time—even just five minutes each day—with the Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent. As we listen to Isaiah call Israel to conversion, we should think about those things that we know we need to cease doing, and resolve to remove them from our lives this Advent, to prepare our souls for the coming of Christ.
Daily Scripture Readings for Advent:
- Scripture Readings for the First Week of Advent
- Scripture Readings for the Second Week of Advent
- Scripture Readings for the Third Week of Advent
- Scripture Readings for the Final Week of Advent