Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation
Over two weeks in October, parish liturgy teams attended Advent preparation sessions hosted by the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation. The sessions included a two-part look at the Gospel of Mark and the Advent readings by renowned biblical scholar Rev. Prof. Francis Moloney SDB AO, as well as workshops on preparing the liturgical environment and music.Understanding the drama
Renowned Australian biblical scholar Fr Francis (Frank) Moloney sdb began by guiding participants through the Gospel of Mark, offering an overview of the literary techniques employed by Mark to highlight Jesus' coming and fulfilment of the Messianic promise.
He reminded participants that in the early church the gospel was often acted out onstage, and so just like other stage plays, Mark begins his "drama" with a prologue. 'The prologue is crucial to understanding what Mark is doing with this story ... This is not an objective story. This is prejudiced book. It's shot-through with the belief that the story of Jesus is the story of the Messiah --- the son of God. However, there are going to be some funny turns along the way.'
Advent is not a short Lent
In his second session Fr Moloney focused on the readings for the four weeks of the Advent season (Year B in the liturgical cycle), stressing that 'Advent is not a shorter Lent. Advent is a self-standing season.'
In looking at the scriptures, Fr Moloney opined that, 'One of the things that concerns all of us is the lack of biblical literacy across the Catholic church. ... Many people will go from church to church trying to find a preacher who will preach on the Word of God... People want to hear the Word of God!'
A theme that pervades the Advent season is the theme of 'living in the tension between the 'now' and the 'not yet'. This theme unites the Advent season and it's expressed in different ways across the liturgical readings and the prayers... the joyful, loving, hope-filed tension that we experience even in the way that we live and wait for the coming of Christmas with families and personally.'Mary’s story is our story: from puzzlement to reason to an unconditional yes
In the fourth week of Advent, as we reach the Annunciation, we are being given a glimpse into what is being asked of us, through the witness of Mary.
'Why does Luke (Luke 1:26-38) pass on this tradition in this way? Because Luke is taking Mary through a journey of faith which is being set up for each one of us as a paradigm for a journey of faith.
'The first time that God in his own ways has broken into your life --- and it's happened to all of us—(our) first reaction is ‘what's going on here?’ … And so the angel goes on to say, 'Mary, do not be afraid. you have won God's favour.' … This is the promise that she will be the mother of the Messiah.
'What's her second reaction? Puzzlement. ‘How can this be?’ This is also a part of the paradigm of true faith. God breaks in, and our first reaction is shock. Our second reaction is, ‘Why me? Why us?’
'But then the angel goes further, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.’ And Mary gets a sign: her cousin Elizabeth who was barren is now in her six month of pregnancy.
''Nothing is impossible with God.’ Once Mary's heard that, she says: 'Behold the Lord's servant. Let it be done to me according to your word.' She gets (to) the stage of faith where she gives an unconditional ‘yes’.
'So this story is not only about a preparation for us liturgically… It's an instruction on how to journey in the ‘in between’ time—in the time between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’; in the time when we are challenged continually by the in-break of God—and to see in ourselves this paradigm of shock ("why me?"), then second, reason; and finally ‘be it done to me according to your word.’ ...
'Not only is this a nice story to tell us about what will happen the next day (Christmas Day), (but) it is a rule of life for those of us who are living in the ‘in-between’ time. … G. K. Chesterton that, ‘Christianity is a great thing. The problem is that none of us have the courage to live it.’ ... Most of us do not have the courage to say an absolute 'no' to God when he breaks into our lives. Most of us do not have the courage to say an absolute and unconditional 'yes'. So most of us spend most of our lives saying 'yo' -- a little of each!
'And for this reason, this story is told in this way. We are being told to follow the mother of Jesus on her journey from: puzzlement, reason, and then, an unconditional yes. Watch the full talk here: Session 2: Readings of Advent (Year B)Advent resources launched: Pull-up banners, real estate boards and more
A number of Advent resources were also launched at the preparation sessions, to help parishes promote their local Advent and Christmas celebrations. Templates for real estate boards, pull-up banners, post cards, giving tree tags and weekly reflections were offered to parishes and can be downloaded for free from the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation website (www.cam.org.au/evangelisation/advent)
Also launched was a new pocket-sized booklet entitled Advent thoughts. Tying it to his talk on the scriptures, Fr Moloney said that '[This] booklet captures extremely well what Advent is about. It focuses upon three times—a time of waiting in joyful hope, a time of wonder, and a time of blessing—each one being supported with biblical reflections and thought-provoking materials. It’s a terrific resource for all in the parish.'
Booklets can be ordered online from the AOFE website: www.cam.org.au/evangelisation/advent