Happy New Year!
No, I’m not a month early today is the liturgical new year for the Church. The Church follows the liturgical calendar and the new year moves around depending when the first Sunday of Advent is. This year it falls on December 2nd, so in the evening of December 1st, it will be 2019 in the Catholic liturgical calendar. The Jewish people began and finished each day at Sunset, for Sunday’s and other feasts the Church continues this practice. That is why Advent starts in the Evening on the first and not midnight of the 2nd. The liturgical calendar in some ways tries to mirror salvation history, beginning with the prophecy of the coming Messiah, his birth, death, and resurrection. The liturgy is a remembrance of what Christ did for us; the liturgical calendar tries to reflect this as well.
The Color Purple
Most days in Advent you will see Fr.Paul and I wear purple vestments. Purple is worn two times during the year, during Advent which we begin this weekend and Lent which we will start next spring. A priest will wear purple for confession. Purple is an optional color for a funeral, but typically white is worn. Purple represents penance, it is easy to understand why we use purple during Lent but why Advent? Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. It is also a season that reminds us that Christ will come again and we are called to stay awake and prepare for the time Christ comes again. In the secular world, it seems Christmas runs from two weeks before Thanksgiving till Midnight on December 25th. The Church,on the other hand, points forward to Christ’s birth at Christmas during Advent,then celebrates Christmas till the Sunday after the Epiphany, or the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year January 13th.
You may notice that the beginning of Mass is missing a significant section, there is no Glory to God in the highest.We will only hear this twice before December 24th. December 8th the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and December 12th the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Church tones down the Mass during this season as a sign of our penance and preparation for our Lord’s coming. Secondly, the church asks us to have a little more moderation with the music of the Mass. We will sing the standard advent hymns and other hymns you are familiar with, but we will save the fanfare till Christmas day!
O Come Emmanuel
We will likely hear some of the traditional songs of advent at Mass. You may even hear this on 96.1 as they play their holiday music or other radio stations that play holiday music. This song those has biblical and liturgical significance!Priests and Deacons all pray the liturgy of the hours, and from December 17th to December 23rd during evening prayer we pray what is called the O Antiphons.They are titles for the coming Messiah, given to us by the Prophet Isaiah. They are as follows O wisdom, O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, O Flower of Jesse’s stem, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of all the nations, and O Emmanuel. Next time you hear the song O Come Emmanuel listen for these titles, the hymn uses slightly different language but the same meaning. I will look at the meaning of each title more deeply in my blog when the date comes!
The Advent Wreath
We may be familiar with this tradition in our Church, found in homes and Churches throughout the world is a wreath with four colored candles. The first two candles are purple or violet, the third candle is rose or pink, and the final candle is again purple. They are designed to follow the liturgical colors used by the Church. As explained earlier purple represents preparation and penance but rose or pink represents joy. This is an easy practice you can bring into your family. Buy a round wreath from Walmart and buy three purple and one pink candle and put it in a circle. On the first Sunday of Advent today light one purple candle, next Sunday light the second purple candle, and so on and so forth. We will have one here in Church too which we will have lit throughout the season of advent.