Sunday, November 30 marked the beginning of Advent in the Catholic Church, which means a general time of preparation and anticipation among the seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.
“Advent for seminarians is kind of tricky because it’s right during one of the more stressful times of the school year,” remarked Adam Bradshaw, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Denver. “And in some sense, it’s really neat to have Advent at that time because you get to enter into the spirituality of this great season where we get to anticipate the coming of the messiah.” Bradshaw will be spending the first few weeks of his Advent studying for the six final exams he will have to take in mid-December. He keeps his focus on the coming Christ, however. “In the midst of our studies, Advent allows us to seek higher things, seek the end of things, which is the coming of Jesus Christ, as we reflect back on his first coming and we anticipate his second coming.”
Some seminarians are no stranger to finals during Advent at the seminary. “This is my sixth Advent in seminary,” reminisces Deacon Josh Mayer, who is preparing to be ordained a priest for the diocese of Gallop, NM next year. “It’s gotten easier because I have a greater sense of the hope of Jesus Christ in my life. Every day it becomes something that’s not just way to get through finals, but also a way of seeing Christ in my neighbor and in my day during finals.”
Advent in the life of the seminary also means participating in the liturgical nuances of the season. Seminarian representative for the liturgical life at SJV, Andy Galles, reflects on what Advent means for the celebration of Mass and Liturgy of the Hours. “The liturgy during Advent takes on a particular dimension of joyful anticipation. In Advent, we really look toward the coming of Jesus both in the incarnation and at the end of time in his glorious second coming.”
Galles, a seminarian for the Diocese of Sioux City, is also charged with the task of preparing Christ the King Seminary Chapel for the season. “We feel the anticipation through the purple vestments, the purple adornments on the altar, as well as in the readings from Isaiah which foretell the coming of the Messiah. We also see this in the Advent wreath as we count down each week to the coming of Christ.” In his second year of theological studies, Galles is preparing to be ordained a deacon in 2016.
But it’s not just the chapel that needs to be prepared. “Advent is a time to really prepare for the coming of Jesus in the nativity, and it’s a time for us to just get things right in our prayer life: to just slow down,” relates Denver seminarian John Mrozek. “As Catholics, we love to prepare for big events, and there’s no real bigger event than the resurrection than the coming of the Christ, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.”
The priests in charge of formation at St. John Vianney also work hard during Advent to prepare their seminarians for the coming of Jesus. “The color for Advent in our liturgical season is violet, or purple, it reminds me of the colors of the rainbow. Remember ROY G. BIV back in elementary school?” asks Father Gary Selin, Formation advisor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Seminary House. “The ‘BIV’ stands for blue, indigo, and violet, so violet is the darkest of the rainbow. In Advent, we await the first light breaking thru the darkness. We’re looking toward the east as the very beginning of the son that had been prophesied from Genesis and particularly through Isiah the coming savior who would be the light shining in the darkness.”
Father Selin, an alumnus of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, reminds us of the spiritual purpose of Advent. “As this Advent goes on these four weeks, let us allow that light of Jesus Christ in our hearts, and may our hearts become a warm resting place, like a little Bethlehem. Every time we make an act of faith in Jesus in our lives, we become little Bethlehems, as he is born anew and deeper in our hearts.”
Happy Advent from everyone at SJV.