Newsletter- 1st Week of Advent

Dear Parishioners

Admission to the Guild of St Stephen: This Sunday – 1st Sunday of Advent – at the 9.30 am Mass I shall admit two of our young servers into the Guild of St Stephen. We shall do this in a simple ceremony towards the end of Mass, just before the Final Blessing. We are greatly blessed in our parish with a good number of committed young men and women who come each week to serve at the altar and I am very grateful to them for offering their time and talents for this important ministry. Please pray this weekend for Miles and Juliawho will be admitted into the Guild of St Stephen and for all our young men and women who serve regularly here in our parish. 

Congratulations to Grantham Passage: The Grantham Enterprise Awards took place on Friday 18th November. The winner of the best Social Enterprise Award was Grantham Poverty Concern, also known as Grantham Passage! My sincere congratulations to everybody who volunteers regularly both from our own parish and the wider local community in helping to support this important local social outreach initiative. Since I have been here as parish priest, I have been amazed at how well the Passage is run and the good that is done to help so many people struggling at this time through the hard work and commitment of so many local volunteers. Each of you in no small way have helped I feel sure to ‘win’ this coveted award. We continue as a parish community to keep Grantham Passage, the clients and all the volunteers in our prayers. Well done to you all!

Christmas Hampers for our three local charities: Firstly, to thank all who have generously donated money and hamper items over the past few weeks. Hampers will be packed on Saturday 3rd December; any last food donations need to be made please by Friday 2nd December. To those who have kindly agreed to assist with the packing of hampers could you meet please in church at 11 am on Saturday 3rd December. Ewa Nosek will be helping to organise the packing practicalities with you! I will join you to help pack when I return from celebrating Mass at HMP Whatton that day.

This weekend we begin the Season of Advent. Advent can come as a surprise to us all at this busy time of year. It’s not unlike the surprise of Mary when she received news that she was pregnant with Jesus. Like her, we should try to take some time during the season of Advent as a time to pause and to reflect, and in preparation for the gift of God’s love coming amongst us at the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas.

The word Advent in Latin, ad-venio, means “to come to.” This special time in the Church’s Year, is a period of renewal for us all as we “come to” and seek to focus more fully our hearts and our lives upon Christ. Like a Lenten period of fasting and sacrifice, during Advent we are called to dedicate this time to readying ourselves for Christ’s coming at Christmas. We are called to be attentive to the message of repentance and to the end times. This may seem unexpected considering the extravagant ways we eat, shop, celebrate, and rejoice as Christmas approaches!

The four weeks of Advent are popularly considered to symbolise though the four thousand years of darkness before the coming of Christ. We set up Nativity sceneslight Advent candles, and decorate wreaths in our homes and churches to signify Christ’s presence coming in the darkness of sin and suffering. Four candles adorn our Advent wreath in church, one for each week. A fifth candle is placed in the centre for the beginning of the Christmas season.

The Advent colours of violet or purple are worn by the priests and deacons at Mass during this season. These colours are represented in the candles that surround the Advent wreath:

Violet: royalty, repentance, and fasting (First, Second, and Fourth Week of Advent)

Rose: abundant joy (Third Week of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, joy or to rejoice in Latin)

White: light and purity (the Christ Candle, the centre candle on our Advent wreath completes the season and begins to new season of Christmas)

During Advent, there are three prevalent themes we experience as we wait patiently for the coming of Christ.  We long for the Messiah, are urged to be alert for Jesus’ Second Coming, and we meditate on Christ’s presence in our lives in the here and now. 

As we begin Advent together again this year let’s try to consider how we can grow spiritually during such a busy commercial season evolving around us. We need to take a little time for silence and reflection each day with Scripture, or some extra devotional prayer. Maybe when you are passing the church pop in and take ten minutes or so just to be still, pause and reflect. It’s a lovely space during the week to find a little peace and quiet amidst all the busyness of the world around us! Maybe too you might like to dwell with the scene of the Nativity. What is it like to imagine the journey of Mary and Joseph, to be with them as they bring Jesus into the world? St. Ignatius of Loyola had a deep reverence for the manger scene that you can find in his Spiritual Exercises. Maybe this year consider praying with saints like him, or with the Liturgy of the Hours, or with the O Antiphons that we will hear in the last week of Advent before Christmas. A prayerful journey with the Holy Family and the Church throughout Advent will lead to gifts of gratitude and real joy for each of us when we come at last to celebrate Christmas! I pray that this year each of us may draw closer to Christ and all that He may be calling us to be in him. 

Have a blessed Advent and rejoice in the light and love of Christ as we begin our Advent journey together again this year!

Your parish priest and friend,

Father Jonathan


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