As the world gears up to immerse itself in the Christmas-before-Christmas chaos, we celebrate a time of stillness, preparation, repentance, and contemplation of the divine mystery of the Incarnation. For Catholics Advent is a special time to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming.
When I was a child in my native country, Poland, we celebrated the Rorate Caeli votive Masses to the Blessed Virgin Mary since the thirteenth century. These Masses are celebrated in Polish villages and cities every day of Advent, except on Sundays and special feast days. During such masses, the celebration of the Eucharist begins in complete darkness. Throughout the course of the Mass, however, the atmosphere becomes brighter as seven candles are lit at the altar when a person representing each social state is called forward to light one of the seven candles. Long ago, the King of Poland lit the first and highest candle as he proclaimed in a loud voice: “I am ready for the Last Judgment.” Then the Cardinal-Primate lit the next candle, saying: “I am ready for the coming of the Lord.” In turn, the senator, a nobleman, a knight, a townsman, and a peasant lit the remaining candles and recited the very same words as the king: “I am ready for the Last Judgment.”
The Rorate Mass begins in the dark both as a sign of the Church and Her member’s vigilance and readiness for Christ’s coming. The celebrations are also a sign of Mary’s special presence in the Church during Advent and always. One of the seven candles lit during the Rorate Mass is elevated higher than the other six candles and is lit first to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary who, like the morning star, precedes the sunrise, Jesus Christ. As the Daughter of Israel, Mary awaited with the Chosen People the coming of the Messiah. She, as the Mother of Jesus Christ, personally experienced the mystery of His incarnation in Her womb. And She, as the Mother of the Church, awaits with all of us the second coming of Her Son.
While this tradition of Rorate no longer takes place in every city or village in Poland, each of us is nevertheless called to take time during Advent to reflect in the silence of our hearts upon the fact that we, too, will one day stand before God and to give an account of our lives. We do not know when this day or moment will come, so the Church always urges us to be ready.
This Advent, then, let us examine our consciences in the light of God’s incarnate love and ask ourselves: “Am I ready for the Last Judgment?” If not, the sacrament of confession is always available.
Yours in Christ,
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent: Lectionary 3
Tags: #advent, #arturmarat, #christtheking, #frarthurmarat, #lastjudgment, #olw, #olwparish, #reflection, #secondcoming