THEME: Advent: Remembrance, Actualization, and Continuation
By: Fr. Anthony O. EZEAPUTA, MA.
Homily for Sunday November 28 2021
If there are concepts in the Catholic Church that can assist in gaining a thorough understanding of liturgical celebrations throughout each liturgical season (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Sacred Paschal Triduum, Easter, and Ordinary Time), they are anamnesis and epiclesis. While anamnesis is based on the Old Testament concept of a memorial, as expressed in Psalm 111:4, “The Lord has made a memorial for his wonders,” epiclesis, on the other hand, refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in making the past mysteries of Christ relevant to us now and forever.
Indeed, all the historical events of Israel are “types” of the mysteries of Christ, while the mysteries of Christ are “antitypes” of the entire history of Israel. The antitype is clearly the New Testament parallel to the Old Testament type, as in 1 Peter 3.21, where baptism is the antitype of the Flood. Furthermore, a “type” is more than just an illustration; it is also a starting point for the “antitype.” The crossing of the Red Sea is not an illustration but a type of baptism; the crossing of the Red Sea is the “starting point,” and our baptism is the “continuation” of the crossing of the Red Sea as we progress toward the complete “crossing” in which we will meet the Lord. As a result, anamnesis and epiclesis are the dimensions of liturgy concerned with the “remembrance,” “actualization,” and “continuation” of the wondrous deeds of God throughout the liturgical year.
Each liturgical season is thus not only a memorial, remembrance, or recall of the past, but also a “remembering”—anamnesis—that allows us to “actualize” and “continue” the mysteries of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit—epiclesis. Advent is then a liturgical season during which we “prepare” to celebrate the memorial (anamnesis) of Our Lord Jesus’ first coming as an infant born of the Virgin Mary, and not only that, we become active participants in the mysteries of the Messiah’s first coming through the power of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis). Furthermore, we anticipate his glorious return to judge both the living and the dead.
To contextualize the preceding, Israel viewed the events of their history as God’s word to her, and as such, that word could not become old or lose its effect. “For the word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12). It was sufficient to repeat the words that narrated the events in order to bring each new generation of Israelites into participation with the originating events of the community. The Jewish feast of Passover can shed additional light on Israel’s view of their entire history as God’s enduring word to them.
The Lord commanded Israel to observe Passover—a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery—as “a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; you shall keep it as an ordinance throughout your generations” (Ex 12:14). Passover is a day of remembrance, a day of liberation, and a day for Israel to renew its commitment to God. On the day of Passover, the covenant that their ancestors made with God was remembered, made present, and extended to the celebrants. As a result, the Passover meal is not merely an imaginary replication of the Exodus from Egypt; rather, each participant considers himself or herself free of slavery. And they mean real deliverance right now.
The illustration of the Passover feast helps to comprehend why those who hear or celebrate significant moments in Israel’s history remember and celebrate them as if they were occurring right now. They are contemporaneous with the past, but also with the future. To commemorate is to bridge the gap between the present and the past. The Catholic Church understands her liturgical celebrations and liturgical seasons within this context of making the past relevant to the present and future.
Today, as we begin a new liturgical year and the preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I implore you not to view Advent as a collection of boring memories and celebrations unrelated to life. Rather than that, let us immerse ourselves in the mystery of Christ’s first coming and become acquainted with the season’s spiritual benefits. Let us view Christmas as the actual arrival of the Messiah, who continues the Old Testament’s story in the New Testament and in our own era.
I would like to remind you that the most effective way to make the most of this season is to participate in the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. If you’re thinking about making an Advent resolution, I recommend resolving to go to Mass every Sunday during Advent, go to confession, forgive those who have wronged you, and make at least one person smile. These are, in my opinion, reasonable resolutions, and you have thus fulfilled the spiritual meaning of Advent: remembrance, actualization, and continuation of the mysteries of Christ.
Everything Jesus Christ did and taught in order to redeem and save us is something we learn about and experience through the Church, particularly in the Bible and sacraments. For this reason, today’s gospel passage warns us: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap” (Luke 21:34–36). Enjoy this Advent season to the fullest and know that I will be praying for you. I wish you a joyous and spiritual Advent season!
Homily for the First Sunday of Advent
November 28, 2021