Advent & Christmastide: December 2012 Archives

English: Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and child ...
Today is the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the liturgy the passage from Luke's Gospel presents the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph who, faithful to tradition, go to Jerusalem for the Passover with the twelve-year-old Jesus. The first time Jesus had entered the Temple of the Lord was forty days after his birth, when his parents had offered "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24) on his behalf, which is the sacrifice of poor. "Luke, whose Gospel is filled with a whole theology of the poor and poverty, makes it clear ... that Jesus' family was counted among the poor of Israel; he helps us to understand that it was there among them where the fulfillment of God's promise matured" ( The Infancy Narratives, 96). Today Jesus is in the Temple again, but this time he has a different role, which involves him in the first person. He undertakes the pilgrimage to Jerusalem as prescribed by the Law (Ex 23.17, 34.23 ff) together with Mary and Joseph, although he was not yet in his thirteenth year: a sign of the deep religiosity of the Holy Family. But when his parents return to Nazareth, something unexpected happens: he, without saying anything, remains in the City. For three days, Mary and Joseph search for him and find him in the Temple, speaking with the teachers of the Law (Lk 2: 46 ,47), and when they ask him for an explanation, Jesus tells them they have no cause to wonder, because that is his place, that is his home, with the Father, who is God (The Infancy Narratives 143). "He - Origen writes - professes to be in the temple of his Father, the Father who has revealed Himself to us and of which he says he is the Son" (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 18, 5).
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Nativity of the Lord

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Blessed be the Child who today delights Bethlehem.
Blessed be the Newborn who today made humanity young again.
Blessed be the Gracious One who suddenly enriched all of our poverty
and filled our need.

Saint Ephrem

The Perfect Gift

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(Mary prays:) "The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it; and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. As I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that Savior, whom I have conceived in this world of time."

The Venerable Bede

We all are hurting today. Whatever the reason, joy seems to be lacking in many. For some people any celebration of Christmas is out of the question. They believe that joy is not permitted due to the murders of children and adults. There is no room for hope, no possible way to feel anything but misery. There is no question that the radical absence of loved ones is very trying and almost hopeless. I think we can understand this line of thinking, but I think for people of true Christian faith this is not the answer.

Our friend, Dominican Father Peter John Cameron (Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat), tells us why Christmas is important and how it shapes our humanity and our belief that death and violence doesn't have the final word. He makes a clear case for a true celebration of JOY. Father Cameron celebrates the sacred Liturgy weekly at the now famous Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, Saint Rose of Lima.

For your prayerful consideration: Fr. Peter Cameron Newtown Homily Dec 16 2012.pdf

Fasting to prepare for Christmas

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The Four Men in the Fiery Furnace. Три отрока ...
Latin Catholics are accustomed to fasting once a year at Lent. Historically speaking, there was a time when the tradition of fasting was proposed a few more times a year than merely Lent, e.g., the Assumption fast, the Saints' fast and the Advent fast.

Liturgically speaking the time before any great feast of the Lord (i.e., Christmas & Easter), the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and also of Mary (Assumption of the BVM) was preceded by a distinct time of preparation: prayer, fasting almsgiving.

In time, Catholics have relaxed some traditions and now they have become virtually obsolete. Think of the practice of Ember Days. Today, in fact, is the first of the three Advent Ember Days. You may have heard that the US bishops are encouraging the reinstitution of abstinence on Fridays. Fasting and abstinence are different; do you know the difference? What can we do to restore a reasonable practice of the Catholic faith that includes expanding our utilization of spiritual disciplines such as fasting? Can Catholics reinstitute the Ember Days in the praying of the Novus Ordo Liturgy?
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Antiphons O.jpgThe tradition of the "O Antiphons" is now upon us. We will hear them beginning tonight at Vespers.

ERO CRAS is a convenient nemonic device, meaning, "tomorrow, I will come."

During the 8 days before Christmas, the Church has collected, one for each night, a biblical verse from the Advent Prophets Isaiah and Micah (that is, an "antiphon") that is known to be prophetic of the birth of Jesus; each notes a title of the Messiah. Each offers us a key to understand the gift of the Messiah promised through the use of typology.

The Octave of Advent begins on December 17th and concludes on the 23rd. Seven different antiphons are traditionally sung prior to and following the Magnificat during Vespers as part of the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours). The eighth day of the octave is Christmas Eve, so Vespers for that evening is the Christmas Vigil. Each antiphon begins with the word, "O" in the incipit. Hence, "O Antiphons."  Most of us are familiar with the Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," the content of which the O Antiphons form the structure Vespers at this time of the liturgical year.

The Church always distinguishes what she says and since in our theology we derive our belief from the manner in which we pray, the O Antiphons give ample food for what we belief the Messiah to be, who he is. Secularism gives the world an emasculated Santa Claus but the Church gives us a Messiah. He is known through his titles, that is, his activities. In the final stretch before Christmas use this time to pray with the O Antiphons: they provide a beautiful framework for reflection before the Nativity.

Past Communio blog entries here, here and here.

Advent Three, Gaudete

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Los entering the grave Wm Blake.jpgOur worship of God began today with the the Church quoting Saint Paul who wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near" (Phil. 4:4-5).

Hard to hear these words today following the tragic events of Friday the 14th where the citizens in Newtown, Connecticut, indeed, the nation, faced horrific acts of evil. As we "faithfully await the feast of the Lord's Nativity" our affect, our prayer, our humanity has a new orientation: a cry of anguish and a cry of joy. That's the Christian paradox. We are sad (troubled and grieved) to have young people gunned down. Lives cut short. The living who are searching for ways to go on with meaning and peace. The somber joy of the Third Sunday of Advent is an invitation, a recognition, a way being, to a life of joy found only in God no matter the circumstance.

Advent's First Sunday

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At the Sunday Angelus today, the Holy Father notes some crucial points about our Christian faith that can't go unheard and need to be savored deeply in the heart. Notice, please, that Benedict doesn't talk about expectation but he does speak of the Lord's coming and presence; his death and resurrection and our final destiny (that is, love) and doesn't mention the Christ Child as the exclusive image of Advent. The Cross, resurrection and ascension is our only Hope. Pope Benedict addressed the faithful with the following:


Today the Church begins a new liturgical year, a path that is further enriched by the Year of Faith, 50 years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The first Time of this journey is Advent, composed, in the Roman Rite, of the four weeks that precede the Birth of the Lord, that is, the mystery of the Incarnation. The word "Advent" means "coming" or "presence." In the ancient world, it signified the coming of the king or the emperor into one of the provinces; in the language of Christians, it referred to the coming of God, to His presence in the world; a mystery that involves the whole of the cosmos and of history, but that recognises two culminating moments: the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The first is the Incarnation itself; the second is the glorious return at the end of time. These two moments, chronologically distant - and it is not given to us to know how far apart they are - touch us deeply, because by His death and resurrection Jesus has already accomplished that transformation of humanity and of the cosmos that is the final goal of creation. But before that end, it is necessary that the Gospel be proclaimed to all nations, as Jesus says in the Gospel of Saint Mark. The coming of Christ is continuous; the world must be infused by His presence. This permanent coming of the Lord in the proclamation of the Gospel requires our continual collaboration; and the Church, which is like the Betrothed, the promised Bride of the crucified and risen Lamb of God (cfr. Rev. 21,9), in communion with her Lord collaborates in this coming of the Lord, in which His glorious return is already begun.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Advent & Christmastide category from December 2012.

Advent & Christmastide: November 2012 is the previous archive.

Advent & Christmastide: January 2013 is the next archive.

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