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Advent Retreat Day

December 14, 2023

On the First Sunday of Advent (3rd December 2023) we held our seasonal retreat day for young professionals, university students and the Assumption Volunteers in Kensington. It was an uplifting day of sharing, prayer, and reflections inspired by the O Antiphons.

Although there are many preparations for Christmas, the retreat centred on preparing ourselves to live this precious time of Advent, these 22 days, getting ready to celebrate the birth of Christ. At the start of the retreat, we were invited to reflect upon what graces we wanted to ask God in these coming days: what do we need in order to be in as good place as possible to welcome the birth of Jesus?

Within the Advent season, the last eight days have a special intensity. From 17th December to the 23rd, each evening at evening prayer there is a special antiphon, sung before and after the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. These special antiphons are known as ‘O antiphons’, quite simply because each one begins with the word ‘O’.

The antiphons originate from the 6th century, and each one is an attribute or title of Jesus, as found in Scripture: O Wisdom, O Adonai (a title for God, in his majesty, used in the Old Testament), O Root of Jesse, naming Jesus as the direct descendent of Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David, O Key of David, O Dawn of the East, O King of Nations, and finally on 23rd December, O Emmanuel, which literally means ‘God is with us’.

The retreat was a beautiful opportunity to enter into the message of each of these titles for Jesus. We had three sessions of prayer, reflection, and activities including some time to gaze at different interpretations of the nativity scene and envision how Mary, Joseph and the Magi have felt at the birth of Jesus. We were able to build our own Advent Calendar – not with chocolates but with scripture readings or with little actions of faith. Aisling from Pax Christi, invited us to be attentive to the darkness and to dispel it with the light: lighting a candle and praying in the darkness for the whole world, especially those wounded by conflict, for the Holy Land.  There were many opportunities for God to speak, to heal, encourage and guide us through the reflections, conversations, new friendships, through Scripture, and in the Holy Hour with adoration.

One participant said: “It was such a wonderful Advent Retreat. I really enjoyed and received so much to prepare me for this season of expectation”. 

May we receive the grace this Advent to slow down, pay attention and seek the light of Christ, even in the midst of darkness, as we await joyfully his return… O come, o come Emmanuel!