Tag Archives: Advent

Christmas draws nearer, the fulfillment of God’s promises

In today’s general audience (December 17) the Pope mentioned the Christmas novena to the faithful a practice we ought to engage in. The hope of Christmas fulfills our human desires for union with God. Consider what Benedict XVI said:

 

Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life – often fragile or endangered – and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God’s coming among us as man. The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment. In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life. As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God’s promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.

 


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In 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a set of principles and guidelines to help our pious activities flourish. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy tries to harmonize personal and ecclesial piety with the liturgical worship of the Church. At this time of the year the Directory says:

 

103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that Vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the “major antiphons”, and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before or after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal “Christmas Novena”, in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.

 

Below is one of many versions of a Christmas Novena prayer. This particular prayer names Saint Andrew in its title but doesn’t ask him to intercede for us before God. The faithful, in some places, begin on the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30th, and pray the prayer 15x in a given day, everyday, till Christmas.

 

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

 

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Advent Presence

As we are at the midway point in the liturgical season of Advent (in the roman rite) it is helpful to remember what we doing and why we are doing it. Pope Benedict is helpful in recalling the essence of the season.

“Advent” does not mean “expectation,” as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or, more accurately, “arrival,” i. e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the God being worshiped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.

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“Advent,” then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.

His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

That night is “today” whenever the “Word” becomes “flesh” or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.

Benedictus
Pope Benedict XVI

Gaudete Sunday: the 3rd Sunday of Advent


2 angels.jpgRejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.

 

Gaudete Sunday is called such because of the first word in Latin of the antiphon that begins, GaudeteRejoice…. The full antiphon is noted above. It orients our prayer and Mass today! The presence of the Lord is acknowledged to be here, right now, in our midst. Catholics are a people full of joy today and everyday of our existence. The Presence of the Lord is always in our midst: in the Eucharist, sacred Scripture, in our hearts and in our community. Pope Benedict offers us a perspective on an aspect of this joy:

 

The root of man’s joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the you, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the you, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I [the I is the whole self, one’s entire body, soul and mind] and, for that reason, cannot accept a you. Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one’s I leads to the inability to accept a you. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one’s I?

 

The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone.

Advent tree.jpgOf ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become accept to another I. We can love ourselves only if we first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when takes the child’s tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist… If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “It is good that you exist” -must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.

 

For it is the way of love to will the other’s existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the you; the way to the you leads through the I.

 

(Benedictus, 2006)

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer

A new liturgical season calls for a new Marian antiphon. So with Advent beginning at First Vespers last Saturday until the Purification of Mary (February 2nd), the monks are singing Alma Redemptoris Mater as the Marian hymn following the Office of Vigils. This hymn dates at least to the 11th century and is said to have been composed by Herman the Cripple. The popularity of Alma Redemptoris Mater is demonstrated by the fact that it is found in the “The Prioress’ Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.


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Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel’s mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(translated by Cardinal John Henry Newman)

Advent: the time of our Salvation is nearer

Behold, the great Prophet shall come; and He shall renew Jerusalem, alleluia.

 

A thrilling voice by rings

Rebuking guilt and darksome things:

Vain dreams of sins and visions fly;

Christ in His might shines forth on high.

 



St John the Baptist.jpgNow let each torpid soul arise

That sunk in guilt and wounded lies;

See, the new Star’s refulgent ray

Shall chase disease and sin away.

 

The Lamb descends from heaven above

To pardon sin with freest love:

For such indulgent mercy shown

With tearful joy our thanks we own.

 

That when again He shines revealed

And trembling worlds to terror yield,

He give not sin its just reward

But in His love protect and guard.

 

To God the Father, God the Son,

And God the Spirit, Three in One,

Praise, honor, might and glory be

From age to age eternally. Amen.

 

V. The voice of one crying in the desert: make ready the way of the Lord.

R. Make straight His paths.

 

We beseech Thee, O Lord, show forth Thy power and come, that we may deserve to be rescued from the ever-threatening danger of our sins, and be saved by Thy deliverance.

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]yahoo.com.
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