AoB/Cir/07 2016

Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo

1. Advent:

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season.

Traditions associated with Advent are lighting of Advent wreath candles each week, children’s Advent calendars, making a Jesse tree and hanging of the greens.

A Jesse tree is an amazing project where a tree is decorated with special decorations which symbolise Jesus’ family tree going all the way back to Jesse who was King David’s father. Each step in the family tree gets its own decoration and trees can be big or tiny, ornate or simple. A truly beautiful of celebrating Jesus’ life and getting to know Him better.

Perhaps not necessarily referred to by this name – the Hanging of the Greens is actually observed by many Christian denominations including Catholics. Its when the Church is decorated with wreaths, including setting up of the main advent wreath in the Church.

The most important part of Advent are the scriptural readings. These are a very old Church tradition that we still retain today. We read from the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Micah, Matthew and Romans to name just a few. These are read at Mass during Advent, but you can have your own small Bible reading plan which you can do alone or with your family.

Whatever you choose to do, Advent should be joyful, prayerful and penitential, with good reason for hope!

Therefore Advent  is a time of hope and waiting. We wait preparing our hearts and homes  for the Lord. It is not  so much of a time of celebration as the colour of the vestments in the church violet would symbolize.  Let us make use of this time as individuals and as families to welcome the Christ as appropriately as possible.

I wish each of you my prayerful support during this season of Advent. May the Lord remain with you all.

2. Christmas 2016: Christmas is always a family time. I wish each of you many blessings for a very Happy Christmas. May you all enjoy the genuine love of  Christ in your hearts and families.

3. Appointments:

3.1. Deans:  Fr. Marko Mkandla for Lupane Deanery; Fr. Wilfred Moyo for Tsholotsho Deanery; Fr. Claudious Lupahla for South West Deanery.

4. AGM of the Laity: This took place from 28 to 30 October at Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre. The attendance from all parishes and missions were very impressive. The participation  of the members were lively and it demonstrated the seriousness and commitment of our leaders. Let us keep on serving our Church. This meeting unanimously endorsed the theme of “Catholic Families, the future of the Church” for next year. The purpose is to strengthen the Catholic  faith of our families  and to evangelise it more seriously.

5. Gratitude for 2016: The Year of Mercy was an year of many blessings. I thank each and everyone of you for the  various spiritual exercises that you undertook to make this year a success. May the Lord continue to shower His mercy upon you all.

6. Diaconate Ordination: John Sewera will be ordained a deacon on 18th December 2016 at St. Adolph Parish, Magwegwe. We wish him many blessings.

“Examining our consciences, repentance and confession to our Father who is rich in mercy lead to a firm purpose of amendment. This in turn must translate into concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation. For example: “avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices” (Laudato Si’, 211). We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They “call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread” and encourage “a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption.” (Pope Francis)

+Alex Thomas
Archbishop of Bulawayo

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