|Kay Eneim, 2007|
The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning coming. During Advent we recall the history of God's people and reflect on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled. We reflect that every year at this time we celebrate the Christ Child's coming. It is a time of expectancy and joyful anticipation.
|J. Bourgault- Canadian|
With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. During this time the faithful are admonished to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world.
In European Catholic countries Advent is a time much more celebrated than in our own country. While we do have a very rich Liturgy celebrated daily in the monastery, for the most part it is a time that just by-passes many, who eagerly await Christmas, as they dash from one store to another, checking their lists of who gets what! When I lived in Germany many years ago it was a wondrous time with so many customs new to me. Special breads and foods were made, served only at this time- a favorite was Birnenbrot (pear bread- really a cake) made from dried pears. It was a sort of semi-fasting time (perhaps knowing of all the rich and varied treats to come for the long Christmas season).
It is not known when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church but there are references of it being celebrated by the end of the 4th century. The collection of homilies of St. Gregory the Great (590-604) begins with a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent. In 650 Advent was celebrated in Spain with five Sundays. Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox.In the eighth century we find it observed not as a liturgical celebration, but as a time of fast and abstinence, from 15 November to the Nativity, which, according to Goar, was later reduced to seven days. But a council of the Ruthenians (1720) ordered the fast according to the old rule from the fifteenth of November.
When I was growing up we had to abstain from meat on Christmas eve, which was the time when my Mother's large family gathered at our house for the big meal and opening of gifts. My Mother, not a Catholic, took care of my Father and my 2 brothers and me with Crab Louie (hardly what I would call fasting), but it became a tradition, and even when the laws of fasting and abstinence were relaxed, we still had Crab Louie for Christmas eve dinner.
It is my favorite season of the year, beginning with the lighting of the Advent wreath in chapel. Special Antiphons are sung each Sunday, culminating in the "Great O"s.
And of course during this waiting period the Church peppers us with the amazing feasts such as St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and St. Lucy Dec. 11. M M Grace celebrates her birthday on the great feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec.8, and I have mine Dec. 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
|Master of the Madonna, 14th C.|
Because for us Advent is mostly a spiritual preparation, we then celebrate the Christmas Season for weeks after the great event. While the world is taking down the tree and putting away the tinsel till next year we are just getting started.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
12th century Latin hymn