Here's the 2012 version of my Advent post.
Why Have An Advent?
records the birth of Jesus, but it records no direction to
celebrate either it or a preparation for it. But it records no
prohibition of doing so either. The Christian Church has evolved
various practices to commemorate one of its most outrageous claims,
that God became Man in Jesus, the Incarnation, and, considering the
magnitude of what is celebrated, has evolved a season of preparation
for it universally, both Eastern and Western church. These
celebrations have taken on various forms in various places, and even
various forms over time in the same place. But they all have the
same idea, for Christ's church to celebrate to-gether and proclaim
one of the world and life changing events of Christ. Which is the
idea of all of the church's liturgy.
What Is Advent?
comes from the Latin adventus, which means a turning toward, a
coming, and translates the Greek word parousia, which designates not
the coming of Jesus at his birth but his coming again to judge the
world on the Last Day. Advent is in fact a preparation for three
comings of, or turnings toward, Christ and the three will culminate
in three distinct liturgies for Christmas, Christ's Mass. No other
season or celebration in the church year is like this.
are the three. Our Advent preparation for the historical coming or
birth of Jesus culminates in the celebration of that event in the
mass in the night, Midnight Mass. Our Advent preparation for the
coming or birth of Jesus in the heart of believers, in us,
culminates in the mass at dawn, as evidenced in the first believers,
the shepherds who went to the manger. Our Advent preparation for
his second historical coming, in judgement and in glory, which has
been the subject of the final Sundays of the church year before
Advent, culminates in the mass during the day, which celebrates the
eternal generation of the Son in the Trinity in the being of God in
which redeemed Man will fully participate after the end of time.
then precedes Christmas as Lent precedes Easter, a time of
repentance and preparation. For both seasons, church vestments etc
are purple, the colour associated both with penance, our part, and
royalty, his part as King of kings. However, the purple is the
darker royal purple rather than the Roman purple of Lent, the
colours like the seasons they reflect being both similar yet
distinct in kind of event to which they lead.
rite of Salisbury, called Sarum in Latin, England, has a hybrid
liturgy of English and French influences following the Norman
Conquest in 1066. Duke William II of Normandy, aka the "Conqueror"
and King William I of England, the first of the Norman kings of
England, created the diocese out of two earlier ones and appointed a
fellow Norman its bishop, "Saint" Osmund, the Count of Seez and Earl
of Dorset and his Lord Chancellor, with the approval of Pope Gregory
VII. Well sort of approval. This was part of the Normans' rather
systematic assertion of control over everything -- more on that below.
old Pope Greg was having a hard sell on his championship of clerical
celibacy and the supremacy of church, meaning the Roman Church under
the pope, over state among the Germans -- hell, he excommunicated
Heinrich (Henry) IV, King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, not once
but twice -- and so as not to spread his efforts too thin he cut the
Normans some slack. How's that for "apostolic succession"! And oh
yeah, Greg's a "saint" too in the Roman church.
being a duke in Normandy was still under the French king, Phillip I,
(duke ranks just below king) but now as king of England, which he
was crowned on Christmas 1066, he was not, but on an equal basis.
William also messed up our good Germanic language English by making
French the language of the ruling class, which it remained for about
300 years, and by the end of his reign (1087) about 90% of England
was under a French-born aristocracy with which he replaced the native
English one, forever changing English culture. Yeah, the
Anglo-Saxon culture was an import too, but hey, we Angles were ASKED
by the original English to come over from Germany, and gave the place
its name, Angle-land, England. The Saxons and Jutes can speak for
themselves. But I digress.
The Sarum rite Scripture
readings and other prayers proper to the day are different than the
Roman rite, as is the colour of vestments, not purple but blue. This
use of blue as the colour for Advent has had a more general usage
in the West in recent years, though with the Roman propers. Well,
the new Roman propers, from its new three year cycle from the 1960s,
the basis of the common new lectionary for all heterodox liturgical
churches, which will not be considered here -- one can look them up
and put on a little Simon and Garfunkle or other holdovers of the
time if one is so inclined.
This is not the first time
the Sarum rite has influenced Western usage, generally through its
appropriation into the Church of England. The traditional Lutheran
practice of counting Sundays in the rest of the church year from
Trinity Sunday rather than Pentecost is a Sarum influence too.
The Old Advent, "St Martin's Fast".
fact, Advent in the West used to be even more like Lent. From the
fourth or fifth century or so there was, and as we shall shortly see
still is in the Eastern church under the name Nativity Fast, a 40
day time of fasting and penance much like Lent. In the Western
church it started on 11 November, the feast of St Martin of Tours,
Martin Luther's baptismal namesake, with the day being something
like Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, in Lent. The fast started the day
after. This "quadragesima sancti Martini", the forty days of St
Martin, died out by the late Middle Ages, and Advent as it is
generally known in the West took shape and is what we use to-day.
this day, in some places the traditional main dish for Christmas is
goose. In fact, one of my favourite phrases in English, not
suitable for reproduction here, derives from this custom, let the
reader understand. The Christmas goose may derive from Advent when
it was St Martin's Fast. Martin didn't really want to be a bishop,
and is said to have hidden himself in a flock of geese from those
seeking him to persuade him to accept the post, whose noise
nonetheless gave his location away. So goose became the main food
for St Martin's Day kicking off Advent.
Church follows to this day a similar, but not the same, 40 day pattern
of a season of preparation and penitence before Easter and
Christmas, and our former Western "St Martin's Fast" was closer to
it. In the Eastern Church, it isn't called Advent, but the Nativity
Fast, and lasts 40 days, just like the St Martin's Fast, but they
count them consecutively, from 15 November to 24 December. That's
why it also has a similar but not the same nickname: 15 November is
the day after the feast, East or West, of St Philip the Apostle, so
it is sometimes called "St Philip's Fast". The liturgical colour is
neither purple nor blue, but red, and, where in the Western church
the liturgical year begins with the First Sunday in Advent, in the
Eastern church the liturgical year begins 1 September.
The Current Advent.
each Sunday emphasises a different aspect of the preparation and
the comings noted above. Below are listed the Scripture passages
used for the Introits and Scripture readings. Roman usage (which
Rome ditched at Vatican II) has the same Introits but varies as
noted from ours in the Epistles and Gospels for the Western Advent.
had never understood this variation and mentioned that once in the
combox on a blog. Pastor Benjamin Mayes responded citing Reed, The
Lutheran Liturgy, p.438, which states our usage follows the Comes
attributed to St Jerome and its final version, The Lectionary of
Charlemagne, which Rome later modified to accommodate its new feasts.
a comes (pronounced KO-mays)? It's a Latin word meaning companion,
here, a companion book of readings for mass to the rite's service
book itself. Now we more commonly call such a book a Lectionary, from
the Latin for "readings". The list of the readings is still often
called by its Greek name, pericope, meaning section, here, the
sections of Scripture appointed to be read.
and Hebrew, the title of a text is usually the first word or two of
the text, called the incipit, which means "it begins" in Latin,
rather than a separate title. Accordingly, some of the Sundays of
the church year are called from the first word of the first proper
text to them, the Introit. The Sundays of Advent, Lent, and after
Easter are nicknamed from their Introits. This practice has fallen
into disuse with many churches following Rome's 1960s revisionism of
the lectionary. Or one can as my former synod did abolish Introits
Another similarity between Advent and
Lent is that a little over halfway through these
preparation/penitential seasons, the coming joy peeks through in the
readings, starting with the Introit, and so the liturgical colours
reflect that with the purple yielding for that Sunday to rose or pink,
which is also why the so-called Advent wreath has a rose or pink
candle among the rest. It's for the third Sunday in Advent, which is
called Gaudete Sunday from the incipit of the Introit for it, which
means "rejoice" and quotes Philippians 4:4-6. The Lenten parallel
with rose vestments is Laetare Sunday, from the incipit of the
Introit, Laetare Jerusalem, which means "Be joyful Jerusalem" and
quotes Isaiah 66:10-11.
Psalm numbers in the old
Roman usage followed the Septuagint, whereas we follow the numbering
of the Hebrew Bible. That usage counts what we call Psalms 9 and 10
as one psalm, likewise 114 and 115, and divides both 116 and 147 in
two, so between 10 to 148 the numbering is different by one. Since
Vatican II Rome generally uses the Hebrew Bible numbering too, but
below both will be given in the format: Hebrew numbering (Septuagint
Here are the names and readings of the Sundays in Advent, with this year's dates.
Ad te levavi. The First Sunday of Advent. 2 December 2012.
Introit Psalms 25 (24):1-3 psalm verse 25 (24):4, Epistle Romans 13:11-15, Gospel Matthew 21:1-9.
(Roman usage Gospel Luke 21:25-33, our second Sunday Gospel.)
Populus Sion. The Second Sunday of Advent. 9 December 2012.
Introit Isaiah 30:30 psalm verse 80 (79):1, Epistle Romans 15:4-13, Gospel Luke 21:25-36.
(Roman usage Gospel Matthew 11:2-10, our third Sunday Gospel.)
Gaudete. The Third Sunday of Advent. 16 December 2012.
Introit Philippians 4:4-6 psalm verse 85 (84):1, Epistle First Corinthians 4:1-5, Gospel Matthew 11:2-10.
(Roman usage Epistle Philippians 4:4-7 Gospel John 1:19-28, our fourth Sunday readings.)
Rorate coeli. The Fourth Sunday of Advent. 23 December 2012.
Introit Isaiah 45:8 psalm verse 19 (18):1, Epistle Philippians 4:4-7, Gospel John 1:19-28.
(Roman usage Epistle First Corinthians 4:1-5 Gospel Luke 3:1-6, our third Sunday Epistle, the Luke passage not used by us.)
Away in an Animal Feeding Trough, or, The Real Meaning of Christmas.
is a warm time filled with comfort, family, presents, good food,
along with our religious sentiments, for many of us. Christmas as in
the event we celebrate was nothing like that. It was rough. Joseph
wasn't the glowing saint of paintings and icons, he was a working guy
with a pregnant wife about to give birth -- I've been there twice
and that ain't easy under any circumstances, and my observation
would be it ain't easy being the about to deliver wife either -- in
town to follow the law and get counted in the census with all the
hotels full and no place to put his family up but a stable for
animals, and after the baby was born they had to put him in a
feeding trough for animals. That's what "away in a manger" was. A
manger is a feeding trough for animals, the word coming into English
from the French to eat, in turn from the Latin to chew (mandere).
Fact is, our word "munch" has the same root.
King of kings is put in a feeding trough for animals in a cold
stable. You don't make up this kind of stuff. Humans who are gods in
myth are emperors and such, not working class kids born in a barn.
Top it all off, this child "away in a feeding trough" will one day
give himself to be the food of eternal life, giving his body and
blood for us to eat and drink at mass as the pledge and promise of
our salvation through the merits of his death and resurrection.
Guess it kind of fits then.
For those of you whose
Christmas isn't going to be all warm and cozy and filled with cheer,
guess what, you're right in there with those at the first
Christmas. That was a little rough too. Born in a stable, a feeding
trough for a crib, and pretty soon his family having to high tail it
out of town into political exile too. So you're not excluded at all,
and you can take it right to him, because he knows all about when
Christmas isn't so merry. And he also knows all about how merry
doesn't really get determined by what happens in this life, on
Christmas or any other day!
Thee have I lifted up my soul, in Thee, O my God, I put my trust. Let
me not be ashamed, neither let my enemies laugh at me, for none of
those that wait on Thee shall be confounded.
Psalm 25 (24):1-3 as used in the Introit for the First Sunday in Advent.
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