Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent 2014: More Simplicity this Year

Not knowing just how blech I will feel during this first trimester, I decided to aim for a simpler Advent and Christmas than usual. Rumor has it that I will for the first time be sending email Christmas cards this year instead of elegant paper--lest you be shocked and worry that pod people have taken me, let me reassure my loved ones that I'm just that tired. Right now, even managing good deeds earning hay in the creche seems too much for me.

At the recommendation of a local priest, I did buy one new book of holy reading he recommended--"How to Get More Out of Holy Communion" by St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868)--but reading requires remaining awake while sitting still, so we will all see how much progress I make.

The Advent calendars have been mounted in the kitchen for first-thing-in-the-morning fun. Once we had two children, I switched from buying one Advent calendar with built-in chocolates to one calendar without chocolates and simply buying a bag of Hershey's Kisses. (Note: some traditionally minded families do not offer chocolate at all during Advent.) 

This year I discovered these sticker Advent calendars for only five dollars apiece, so I went a little nuts and bought one for each child . . . 

Feeling better to have his own calendar
. . . for each child except Joseph who, at 22 months, was surely clueless, right? Oh no, he was crying hysterically, pulling his siblings off the stool, and screaming, "Mine! Turn! Mine! Turn!" I quickly got a blank piece of paper, labeled it his, and got some Christmas stickers out of our collection so he could have his own calendar and the boy was appeased. (Daddy says he is going to go online and find a nativity picture to print out for a better calendar.)

The nativity scene is set out and the children may play with it at will. I have to keep reminding Margaret (3-1/2) not to take Baby Jesus out of the drawer in which he is hidden, but I suppose that is its own daily catechism lesson about what Advent means. [EDIT: My sharp-eyed Auntie reminded me to remove the wise men and their camel and elephant until Christmas, as they don't fully arrive till Epiphany.]

Surely there could have been an oversized gray horse at the original nativity scene

The Jesse tree bare of ornaments and the unlit Advent wreath
We have always set up our Jesse Tree and Advent wreath in the dining room, where we would gather formally after dinner for hanging of the ornament, reading the appropriate Scripture building Jesus' genealogy, and singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." But that "gathering formally" part struck me as an energy-sucker at an already exhausting time of day for me, so we are trying instead setting up these supplies in the master bedroom. It just seems easier to bring in the children wearing pajamas as usual and--perhaps instead of literature read alouds--do our Advent activities then. It is going well so far!

Mary (6) playing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"


My husband writes an excellent, informative monthly newsletter for the Charlotte Latin Mass Community, listing all the Latin Masses for the month as well as including articles about various liturgical happenings. I include excerpts from his December newsletter below:

As we keep our minds focused in anticipation for the coming of Christ we notice that the days continue to get shorter as if the darkness of the world (prior to the birth of the Christ child) is almost extinguishing the light of the day.  This is the somber mood we must hold on to in vigilance for the coming of the King of Kings on Christmas ... a day in the calendar when the light of day will once again begin to grow longer -- beating back the darkness of the world. 

[Excerpt from Fisheaters...] "The focus of Advent is preparation for the coming of the Lord -- both in commemoration of His Nativity and His coming again at the end of time. Though most Protestants -- and far too many Catholics -- see this time of year as a part of the "Christmas Season," it isn't; the Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass at Christmas Eve, and doesn't end liturgically until the Octave of the Epiphany on January 14. It goes on in the spiritual sense until Candlemas on February 2, when all celebrations of Christ's Childhood give way to Septuagesima and Lent

"The mood of this season is one of somber spiritual preparation that increases in joy with each day, and the gaudy "Christmas" commercialism that surrounds it in the Western world should be overcome as much as possible. The singing of Christmas carols (which comes earlier and earlier each year), the talk of "Christmas" as a present reality, the decorated trees and the parties -- these things are "out of season" for Catholics; we should strive to keep the Seasons of Advent holy and penitential, always remembering, as they say, that "He is the reason for the Season." 

This is the time of year there may be traditional Rorate Masses in your area, held at pre-dawn and lit only by many candles. We have two options here in Charlotte! Below is information about this Mass of Our Lady:

If you wanted to learn more ... a Rorate Mass is a Votive Mass of Our Lady celebrated on any of the Saturdays in Advent ... traditionally just before dawn and where the church is lit entirely by candlelight.  The Rorate Mass takes its name from the first word of its Introit: Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant iustum,” or “Drop down dew, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness.”   If you would like to see a video of what a pre-dawn Rorate Mass looks like, here is a great video to watch, CLICK HERE.
Ember Days of Advent: Reminder that the penitential season of Advent one of the four seasonal Ember Days on December 17, 19, and 20.  If you want to read a great article on the historical significance of Ember Days, Father Christopher Smith in Taylors South Carolina has written a great article which can be downloaded here.

Christmas Eve Fasting and Abstinence:  As is pointed out in this article, the obligation of fasting and abstinence on Christmas Eve has been legally (canonically) void for many decades, however, many Catholics not wanting to do only the bare minimum still follow this traditional devotion.  Just a reminder that the traditional Christmas Eve fast and abstinence can be observed either on December 23 or on December 24 thanks to the General Decree of Pope (now Saint) John XXIII in 1959.  

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Prayers for a blessed and fruitful Advent.