In years past, Advent, like Lent, was a strict time of penance, fasting and almsgiving.
As the faithful prepared for the nativity of Our Lord in Bethlehem, it was a time to deeply contemplate one’s personal relationship with God and to thoroughly examine one’s conscience.
Today, Advent is far more lax. It is still a time of almsgiving, although people rarely fast. At Holy Mass, the vestments are purple and the Gloria is omitted – to remind us that we are in a dark reflective time, awaiting the birth of our Saviour.
And in this time of waiting, there is still a strong call to penance, with the Sacrament of Confession offered far more regularly.
Some years ago, when I lived in Madrid, I had the fortune of meeting with an extremely conscientious Confessor, Canon Frederic Goupil, from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
Canon Goupil was meticulous, which suited me very well. I felt deeply cared for by him. He was sincerely concerned for my soul and the souls of all who confessed to him, in a way that is rare. And he took measures, which reflected his sense of responsibility for us.
He saw certain destructive patterns in my behaviour and suggested that instead of the once-monthly confession I made, on the First Friday, I should come more regularly.
He thought that rather than confessing after I had reached certain difficulties, I should confess before, taking strength from the Sacrament to help me avoid certain situations or states of sin.
Since that time, I go to confession fortnightly or more and am so strengthened by the Sacrament.
And the more I go, the easier it is, to see how my sin does indeed rupture my relationship with the Lord. For, as I regularly reflect, in preparation for confession, I see how my sinfulness takes me further and further away from Him.
As the days go on, I become more isolated, thinking I have to work everything out alone, in my own little head.
After absolution and my penance, the difference to my state of being is incredible.
There is a lightness, a strength, a clarity, a warmth in my heart. I feel all these things and more. I am far more able to put my trust in God and let Him work things out for me.
I move from states where I feel hopeless in some way, to being filled with hope, as I am closer to Him.
On completing my penance, those ruptures, caused by my sin, are healed and again, I feel more easily the presence of Jesus.
All in all, I am aware of this process of rupture and separation, followed by restoration, or reconciliation with our Lord.
I am so grateful for this gift. ‘My sweet, sweet Jesus, I am with Thee again‘ I say in my heart.
The Christ Mass is almost upon us. Advent, this time of reflection and preparation is almost at an end.
If you have not been to Confession, I greatly encourage you to go. It will not only heal your soul, bringing you closer to God. It will also help you receive more deeply, the Heavenly blessings bestowed upon us at Christmas.
For the Sacrament of Confession cleanses and strengthens us, allowing our hearts to be far more open to charity – to love and to be loved.