Tag Archives: Advent

Fasting to prepare for Christmas


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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The Greater Antiphons, the Church’s prophetic utterances…


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

Los entering the grave Wm Blake.jpg

Our worship of God began today with 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 new recognition: 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, like every day of our liturgical lives is call to be aware of God; to be reawakened to the movements of grace in the depths of our being.

The Liturgy concludes with the petition that the divine gifts received in the Eucharist “cleanse us of our faults and prepare us for the coming feasts.” That’s the challenge we all face together: to begin our conversion with the awareness that sin can have deleterious effects in each of us if not attended to. What can be said of Adam Lanza with his crime, personal sin and affective disorder can happen to each of us. There is that line that’s sometimes helpful to remember: There I go but for Christ’s grace. The measure of life is not our passion but the Mystery of Christ.

The anxiety of these days is mitigated by what the Lord does in our hearts: He loves us.

I noticed in the first Scripture reading for today’s Mass the phrase: the Lord is near. It ought to echo for you where you hear the Great O Antiphon, O Emmanuel, God with us. Is that our belief? Is there a true awareness that the Lord is near in the way we live our lives in the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves? Are there concrete ways that we recognize the nearness of the Lord in His gift of the Holy Eucharist, in the proclamation of the Word, in lectio divina, in the community of faith that worships and does works of charity?

Advent’s First Sunday

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:

Advent.jpg

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.

It is to this that the Word of God recalls us today, tracing out a line of conduct to pursue in order to be ready for the coming of the Lord. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says to the disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life . . . Be vigilant at all times and pray.” So: simplicity and prayer. And the apostle Paul adds the invitation to “increase and abound in love” among ourselves and towards everyone, to strengthen our hearts and to be blameless in holiness (cfr. 1 Thess 3, 12-13). In the midst of the turmoil of the world, or the desert of indifference and materialism, Christians accept the salvation of God and witness to it by a different way of life, as a city set on a hill. “In those days,” the prophet Jeremiah proclaims, “Jerusalem shall dwell safely; this is the name they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice'” (Jer 33,16). The community of believers is a sign of the love of God, of His justice that is already present and working in history, but not yet fully realised, and that therefore should always be awaited, invoked, and sought after with patience and courage.

The Virgin Mary perfectly embodies the spirit of Advent, which consists of listening to God, a profound desire to do His will, and joyful service to others. Let us be guided by her, so that God who is coming may not find us closed or distracted, but might extend to each of us a small part of His kingdom of love, of justice, and of peace.

Living in Joyful Hope

Living in Joyful Hope Lewis.jpg

During Advent and Christmas we await and celebrate
the birth of Christ in order to tune our hearts to await and celebrate the
fulfillment of God’s “plan for the fullness of time, together up all things in
Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:10. What better way
to tune our hearts than by listening, with great care and attention to the work
of God?


In her book, Living in Joyful Hope, Suzanne Lewis offers short
verses from the Bible with reflections and prayers to serve as a springboard
for our personal reflection on the Word of God. Suzanne’s mediations are based on the theology of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Follow the link above.

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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