Fourth Sunday of Advent
Individuals and the situations of their lives take centre stage for this final week of Advent; Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph. They led ordinary lives like others of their time and of ours, yet they were blest people and we hear once again of Elizabeth’s hope for a child and shame at being childless; Zechariah’s struggle to come to terms with the revelation he received; Mary’s willing response to the Angel and yet her fear for the future, and Joseph’s soul searching to respond in an honourable way and choose the right course of action. Our Sunday Gospel announces the news that Mary is with child, a child who is Emmanuel, ‘God with Us’ and then relates the dilemma facing Joseph and the guidance that he received, not in his case by the appearance of an angel but through a dream. Joseph at the time was a young working man and Mary a teenager and they faced many challenges as a young couple due to the oppressive conditions of the time. The Gospels relate the way in which they responded to God’s call for them and coped with the challenges ahead of them.
We can learn much from them both especially how their faith in God was the solid foundation on which they led their lives. Mary offers us a remarkable and inspiring example of hope and courage and trust in God in the face of uncertainty. Joseph teaches us the importance of pondering and searching our souls so that we can make the right choices at important moments and to act with sensitivity, honour and care in our dealings with those we love. In this final time of Advent may we be more aware that ‘Emmanuel – God is with us’ and that we need the intercession of Our Lady and St Joseph to help us see the Lord’s hand at work in our lives and how we should respond with faith and generosity of spirit. We should pray the Angelus prayer more than ever at this holy time of the year.
We have our traditional Cathedral Festival Carol Service this Sunday evening at 5pm on the final Sunday of Advent. Traditionally the final seven days of Advent are celebrated as a special period of anticipation and reflection on the meaning of the Feast of Christmas. The festival of carols and readings offer a way for all the family to enter into the spirit and joyful mystery of the nativity.
With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year it is important that those who normally attend the vigil Masses are aware that the times for Masses next Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, are not as the usual weekend schedule.
There will be a service at 3pm on 24th December in the Cathedral which is the ‘Solemn Vespers of Christmas and Blessing of the Crib’.
The Christmas Mass at St Vincent’s is at 8pm that evening and the First Christmas Eucharist at the Cathedral is at Midnight. The Christmas Morning Masses are at the normal times, the Mass at the Royal Hospital will also be in the morning rather than 4pm in the afternoon and there will be no Christmas Day evening Mass.
Canon Anthony O’Brien