Advent Holy Hour
December 8, 2019
We are here this evening for what we call a “holy hour”. One might ask we do we holy hours at all and why today.
To understand why we do “holy hours” at all we need to consider two things. First and foremost, it is rooted in the Real Presence of Jesus. Unfortunately, not all Catholics believe in the Real Presence.
We don’t understand how the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. It still looks the same. The visible substance does not change but there is a change in the “essence” of what it is.
To believe in the Real Presence requires that we transcend the physical things we see in this world. For people that think science has all the answers that is hard. However, it is not impossible. I think of a man named John Polkinghorne. For 25 years he was a Quantum Physicist working on subatomic particles. Then he became an Anglican priest. People were very surprised. They actually asked how he could believe in God after his science work. His reply (he has written several books on faith and science) was that it what he saw in the subatomic particles that actually strengthened his faith. He saw order that could only come from God.
If we can’t see the change and scientists can’t find any evidence of a change, then how do we know it has changed? The answer is found in the Bible, specifically the gospels. It is Jesus himself that says this is my Body…this is my blood.”
Our belief in the Real Presence is rooted in our faith in Jesus and his words.
Thus, believing in the Real Presence of Jesus, we come tonight to be in his presence. We place the Blessed Sacrament in monstrance on the altar to help us center ourselves on Jesus.
The second reason we have “holy hours” is also rooted in scripture. We hear it in the gospel I read. When Jesus went to pray in the garden, He took Peter, James, and John with him, saying to them, “keep watch with me for one hour.” We come to keep watch with Jesus this hour.
So why tonight? We come in our Advent season. The word “advent” means “coming”. In this season we look forward to our celebration of the First Coming of Jesus at Christmas as we anticipate the Second Coming.
You’ve probably heard the terms “First Coming” and “Second Coming” before. We know that the First Coming happened 2,000 years ago. We do not know when the Second Coming will happen but we don’t have to wait for the Second Coming to have Jesus in our lives.
Jesus wants to be in our lives every day. This points us to what some come the “Third Coming.” Jesus comes into our lives every day if we let him. We come tonight to let him into our lives.
We do so with what some call the “bells and whistles,” namely incensing, traditional hymns, and Benediction. For those who don’t know what Benediction is, it is the blessing I will offer over you at the end with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance.
What about incense? Where does that come from?
The word incense is found 141 times in the Bible. It is often found worded as “fragrant incense”. Fragrant being a sweet aroma going up to God.
The use of incense is directed by the Lord in chapter 30 of the Book of Exodus. Since it comes from the Lord, we know it is a good practice. Seeing the smoke rise is also a reminder of the burnt sacrifices offered for forgiveness, sacrifices that no are no longer offered because Jesus made himself the perfect sacrifice, giving his life on the Cross for our sins.
We can pray in various ways during a holy hour. We pray in two ways tonight. First, we pray Evening Prayer (Vespers) followed (secondly) by silence where you can pray quietly in whatever way you choose. We are doing Evening Prayer as part of the Liturgy of the Hours, prayed by priests and religious across the world every day. We join in union with them as we pray.
As to the silence, when I first started going to holy hours I expected something very profound and just sat there expecting it, almost wanting to force it. My encouragement to you is don’t force it. Let God be God.
You might choose to pray your favorite devotion or those prayers you have known for years. You might look at the hymnal and reflect on a reading or a favorite hymn. You might just sit and listen to God in the silence. Don’t pay attention to the distracting thoughts.
Have you ever just sat with a friend without talking? Do the same for Jesus.
In a moment, we will continue with the rest of Evening Prayer and then we will have our silence. We will maintain silence until about 7 minutes before the end of the hour. Give this time to Jesus.