VERSAILLES — Father Jim Simons is hopeful, especially this time of year.
“Here comes Jesus to bring us hope — the hope of Christmas,” Simons said.
Simons is a Catholic priest at three Ohio churches: Immaculate Conception, in Bradford; Holy Family, in Frenchtown; and St. Denis Catholic Parish, in Versailles; where parishioners are celebrating advent. Advent is celebrated the four consecutive Sundays before December 25. This year it began on November 27.
“Secularism and Commercialism puts a lot of energy into Christmas, but the emphasis should be on Jesus and what he calls us to do,” said Jane Pierron Pastoral Associate, St Denis/Holy Family Catholic Parishes.
In Latin, Advent means to come. According to church teachings, Advent is the hopeful awaiting of God, coming into one’s life at three levels: the past, the birth of Jesus and God coming into the world; the present, welcoming God into one’s life; and the future, the anticipation of Christ’s return in glory and the end of the world. It is a time of reflection and hope – preparing one’s heart for the visitor, Jesus Christ. Which is why the Gospel of St. Matthew is placed at the First Sunday of Advent, according to Simons.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 24:36.
“If He doesn’t know, how can we know?” Simons said. “From the Catholic perspective, we say that it doesn’t matter when the end is, if you are ready.”
To prepare, Catholics use symbols of advent, such as the Jesse Tree, wreaths and banners. The wreaths have three purple candles and one pink. One candle is lit each Sunday, on the four Sundays, until Christmas. Each candle is accompanied by a banner. The first week’s banner says “prepare”, that is to prepare for Christ’s coming at his birth and at the end of the world; the second says “repent”; the third, a pink candle, says “rejoice” as the birth is near; and week four says “believe”, because Joseph believed and did what God asked him to do with Mary, according to church teachings.
In addition to the symbolism of the season, Catholics also prepare their hearts through prayer. Father Simons is not telling people what to think or believe, he said. He just wants folks to know there is hope.
“Christmas is during the shortest time, darkest and coldest time of year. People who live in darkness will now see a great light with Christ’s birth. Jesus came at Bethlehem — it’s a beautiful story! Christmas is when he comes into the world and lives among us. Shopping isn’t bad, but how do we prepare ourselves? We only have a short time. What should we be doing?” Simons said.
For more information, about Immaculate Conception, Holy Family and St. Denis Catholic Parishes, visit www.stdenishf.org. For more information about advent, visit bustedhalo.com for a two — minute advent video.