Austrian Advent Celebration
Our 2007 Austrian vacation during Advent included a visit to Hellbrunn Palace, summer residence of the Prince-Archbishop (I don’t like political-religious titles.) and a center of Christmas celebration with a Christmas Market and very large Advent Calendar posted in the palace windows. It appears we were there on their fifth day of Advent.
There are about 9 million people in Austria, 75% identifying as Catholic, so general acceptance of Advent as a public celebration is normal. I doubt we could get away with posting these numbers on The State House in Columbia, even with the Christmas Tree in front.
A Little History
That high concentration of Catholics is at least partly because between 1684 and 1731, Austria expelled their Lutherans, some of whom ended up in South Carolina and founded Wachovia Bank. Freedom of religion was not a popular concept at the time. Even though Lutheran at the time of our vacation, I still felt welcome as a spending tourist, and the information about past intolerance and persecution by Catholics did not discourage me from being received into the Catholic Church forty-two months later. Misbehavior was as common in the 16th century as now.
Pardon my digression, and back to the point, the reason for and value of observing Advent.
For me, that question has to be answered in the context of Advent as a part of the Liturgical Year, a continuous reminder of the whole story, the big picture, salvation history, from the creation through the patriarchs, the law, the prophets, the promise of and waiting for a messiah, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the establishment of The Church, the Body of Christ, and the charges and instructions given to, and the early experiences of, that Church of which we are a part 2000 years later. Keeping that total picture in focus helps us avoid simplifying Christianity to a simple “me and Jesus” formula. Observance of the Liturgical Calendar forces us to pay some attention to all of Sacred Scripture, the whole story, the big picture, and our roles in it.
Threefold Coming of The Lord
Father Linsky mentioned the St. Bernard sermon about the threefold coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, His coming to us now, and the final coming in glory and majesty. Here it is, 12th century wisdom, copied from the Universalis App.
We Are In It (The Church) Together
So, it is not just a simple “me and Jesus” formula, but our personal relationships with Jesus are essential and life changing. I don’t think of any simpler representation of what the results of that relationship, Mystical Union with the Triune God, can be than the Virtue chart posted here earlier, the virtues and gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit keeping us away from those dangerous sins beckoning us. If we are all in, corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, joyful living, and deep love of God and neighbor may come as naturally as breathing. And, if we all, or at least most of us, have that, we may need to add Masses at The Basilica of St. Peter to accommodate the masses drawn to see what in the world is going on.
Advent in the Catechism – Two Key Paragraphs
524 – When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
1095 – For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the “today” of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church’s liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.
Bonus – Austrian Bad News – The Krampus
Here is one Christmas custom we don’t want to borrow from the Austrians. Krampus is to St. Nicholas as stick is to carrot. He was roaming freely around the Christmas Market looking for trouble and scaring the kids until finally confronted and defeated by “St. Nicholas” at the Cathedral.