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 The Sundays in Advent Header
by Tonia Long

  

First Sunday of Advent
Second Sunday of Advent
Third Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent

 

 

Christmas CalendarAdvent is the period marking the four Sundays before Christmas. So, first, let’s get our dates straight. Advent begins on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30th) and ends on December 24th. Christmas begins on December 25 and continues through January 6 (the Epiphany, sometimes also called Three Kings' Day).

Advent, from the Latin adventus, means coming or arrival. In ancient Rome, Adventus was a technical term for the “glorious entry” of an emperor into his capital city. In addition to celebrating conquest on the battlefield, the birthday of the royal leader was also commemorated in an Adventus.

Advent then is a most fitting word to describe the period leading up to Christmas; what we celebrate is the coming of our King and Emperor, one who is both fully man and fully God. The Church drives this point home for us in setting the Feast of Christ the King right before the start of Advent. This is the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays of Advent, and the weeks between them, to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

 

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

The Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath - 1st Candle LitOne of the most familiar external signs of Advent is the Advent Wreath. Advent candles readily demonstrate the strong contrast between darkness and light, which is an important biblical image. Jesus referred to himself as the "Light of the World" that dispels the darkness of sin: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). It also reminds us that, as Christians, we're meant to shine the light of Christ in this world. As Jesus tells us: You are the light of the world ... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

So Much Symbolism!

Shape:  The circular shape of the wreath, without beginning or end, symbolizes God's eternity. God has no beginning and no end. It also symbolizes His unending love for us—a love that sent his Son into the world to redeem us from the curse of sin.  Furthermore, it represents eternal life which becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

Number:  The Advent Wreath traditionally holds four candles which are lit, one at a time, on each of the four Sundays of the Advent season. Each candle represents 1,000 years.  Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the world's Savior—from Adam and Eve to Jesus, whose birth was foretold in the Old Testament. Some Advent wreath traditions also include a fifth white "Christ" candle, symbolizing purity, that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  Many circular wreaths can incorporate a white candle by adding a pillar candle to the wreath’s center.

Color:  Purple is a liturgical color that is used to signify a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice and is used during both Advent and Lent.  Advent, also called "little Lent," is the season where we spiritually wait in our "darkness" with hopeful expectation for our promised redemption, just as the whole world did before Christ's birth, and just as the whole world does now as we eagerly await his promised return. We can literally feel the room illuminate as we progress through this season of spiritual preparation!

And More:  The use of evergreens reminds us of our eternal life with Christ; pointy holly leaves and red berries represent the crown of thorns from the Passion of Jesus and His Precious Blood; and pine cones symbolize Christ’s Resurrection.

Two boys lighting the first purple candle on an advent wreathBut there is even more…
Not only is the Advent Wreath itself replete with symbolism and meaning, but each of the Sundays carry a theme all its own. In this article, we will explore the first Sunday of Advent and watch as the entire Christmas story unfolds for us each and every year—if we are paying attention.

Toward this end, we will explore the three “helpers” to an advantageous Advent—penance, fasting and prayer. Included in this will be a clear explanation of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the necessity of this counter-cultural approach to preparing for the birth of Our Savior.

We embark on our Advent journey as we light the first purple candle. If there are children in the house, you can feel the excitement mount as they clamor to see who gets to light it! As the first candle is lit, the following prayer may be said by a leader or all gathered:

 

Before lighting the candle, pray—

1st CandleO God, Rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us,
Brightening our way and guiding us by His truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world,
And to us as we wait for His coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adding the following invocation according to week—

First week:

O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
Desire of every nation,
Savior of all peoples,
Come and dwell among us.

Prayers for lighting the Advent Wreath Candles, click here to download and print!


This candle has traditionally been referred to as "Prophet’s Candle" reminding us that Jesus is coming. The theological virtue of HOPE is at the center of the first week of Advent. This is the virtue practiced by the prophets and the entire Jewish race for 4,000 years, as they waited in expectation for the promised Savior. And it is the virtue each Christian must practice throughout his or her lifetime and is so well defined in the Act of Hope: “…I hope to obtain forgiveness of my sins, the help of Thy grace and life everlasting.”

 

Hope’s “helper” —  Penance

Throughout the ages the Catholic Church has encouraged us to do penance in anticipation of Christ’s coming. As sinners, we all know instinctively that we need to do penance for our sins and once these are performed, we are again filled with hope in the promise of salvation.

“Advent is also a season of penance — we don’t think of that, but that’s why the color is violet because it is a season of penance and preparation,” said Fr. Kleczewski, from the diocese of Phoenix, AZ. “Advent is also a recognition of kind of our distance from God, still more a season of anticipation and rejoicing but there’s a penitential nature to it.”

To live out the penitential spirit of Advent, Fr. Kleczewski offered several tips. In addition to going to confession during the season, like they do during Lent, Catholics can give something up, take on extra prayer, or perform acts of charity, such as participating in a parish “Angel Tree” program where parishioners buy presents for a child in need.

Fr. Kleczewski compared the expectation of Advent and Christmas to a child waiting for a parent to come home. “We’re waiting, and we’re waiting, and we’re waiting for them to come home — we can’t wait for them to come home. Well that’s what Advent’s about — it’s about that waiting and building of the longing, again both for the coming kingdom, but also for the celebration of the birth of Christ,” he said.

Hope is that virtue we practice to fuel and sustain our waiting.

 



The Shepherd of Our Souls—The Catholic Church

Let’s face it—to talk about penance in the month of December, when everyone is rushing around eagerly buying gifts, is pretty counter-cultural. But so is obedience to a higher authority and it is this authority – the Catholic Church – to which we now turn.

Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence

A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 18, 1966

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.... If we say that we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8-10).

1. Thus Sacred Scriptures declare our guilt to be universal; hence the universal obligation to that repentance which Peter, in his sermon on Pentecost, declared necessary for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38). Hence, too, the Church's constant recognition that all the faithful are required by divine law to do penance. As from the fact of sin we Christians can claim no exception, so from the obligation to penance we can seek no exemption.

2. Forms and seasons of penance vary from time to time and from people to people. But the need for conversion and salvation is unchanging, as is the necessity that, confessing our sinfulness, we perform, personally and in community, acts of penance in pledge of our inward penitence and conversion.

3. For these reasons, Christian peoples, members of a Church that is at once holy, penitent, and always in process of renewal, have from the beginning observed seasons and days of penance. They have done so by community penitential observances as well as by personal acts of self-denial; they have imitated the example of the spotless Son of God Himself, concerning Whom the Sacred Scriptures tell us that He went into the desert to fast and to pray for forty days (Mk 1:13). Thus Christ gave the example to which Paul appealed in teaching us how we, too, must come to the mature measures of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13).

4. Of the many penitential seasons which at one time or another have entered the liturgical calendar of Christians (who on this point have preserved the holy tradition of their Hebrew spiritual ancestors), three have particularly survived to our times: Advent, Lent, and the vigils of certain feasts.

Advent

5. Changing customs, especially in connection with preparation for Christmas, have diminished popular appreciation of the Advent season. Something of a holiday mood of Christmas appears now to be anticipated in the days of the Advent season. As a result, this season has unfortunately lost in great measure the role of penitential preparation for Christmas that it once had.

6. Zealous Catholics have striven to keep alive or to restore the spirit of Advent by resisting the trend away from the disciplines and austerities that once characterized the season among us. Perhaps their devout purpose will be better accomplished, and the point of Advent will be better fostered if we rely on the liturgical renewal and the new emphasis on the liturgy to restore its deeper understanding as a season of effective preparation for the mystery of the Nativity.

7. For these reasons, we, the shepherds of souls of this conference, call upon Catholics to make the Advent season, beginning with 1966, a time of meditation on the lessons taught by the liturgy and of increased participation in the liturgical rites by which the Advent mysteries are exemplified and their sanctifying effect is accomplished.

8. If in all Christian homes, churches, schools, retreats and other religious houses, liturgical observances are practiced with fresh fervor and fidelity to the penitential spirit of the liturgy, then Advent will again come into its own. Its spiritual purpose will again be clearly perceived.

9. A rich literature concerning family and community liturgical observances appropriate to Advent has fortunately developed in recent years. We urge instruction based upon it, counting on the liturgical renewal of ourselves and our people to provide for our spiritual obligations with respect to this season.

 


 

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

ADusty Mountain Roads we progress through the spiritual journey of Advent, the second Sunday traditionally symbolizes the virtue of Faith. The second purple candle that is lit on this day is known as the "Bethlehem Candle." Reflecting on the journey of Mary and St. Joseph to Bethlehem during the weeks leading up to the first Christmas is a good way to remain in a spirit of humble reflection and penance.

Certainly, even the faith of Mary and St. Joseph must have been put to the test during the arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph's ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem.

They were not unaccustomed to traveling on foot, but with Mary’s advanced state of pregnancy, to say that “the going was rough” would be a terrible understatement, bordering on blasphemy. They would have passed through dry, rough terrains, rocky hillsides, desert valleys and perhaps green olive groves, relying on the kindness of strangers to find a place to rest at night.
 
All this hardship was borne in a spirit of faith, knowing that what had been promised to them would be fulfilled, despite all physical evidence to the contrary. The Child in Mary’s womb would be the Savior of all humanity. The Creator of all the hillsides and valleys through which they passed would soon, so very soon, take His first breath amongst them. Within a matter of days, the entire world would be changed.

 

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

 

Food For Thought

So how does someone living in the twenty-first century prepare to commemorate such an awe-inspiring, supernatural event? When surrounded by the consumerism that has all but eclipsed the reason for the season, it is easy to be lulled into a sense of indifference. Having heard irritating Christmas jingles over every store’s speakers since just after Halloween, one might even be guilty of wishing that Christmas was “just over with.”

There is something we can do as individual believers both to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas and to fight the secular tide. It is a practice older than Christmas itself, a mandatory observance in centuries past, and a discipline recommended by our Lord himself: We can fast for Advent.

Fasting is a form of penance, which at first glance seems out of step in the season of hope. Yet it is penance that prepares us for the coming of the Savior, who has come to save us from our sins. And He will not save us unless we first repent –acknowledge our sins and our need to be forgiven – and then manifest our repentance through acts of penance: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

 

Pope Saint Leo the Great (reigned 440-461) –the one who stood up to Attila the Hun-- encouraged the faithful in this regard:

“What is more effective than fasting, by which we approach God, and, resisting the devil, we overcome indulgent vices? For fasting has always been food for virtue: chaste thoughts, reasonable desires, and more sound deliberations profit from fasting. And through these voluntary afflictions, our flesh dies to concupiscence and our spirit is renewed for moral excellence.”

 

Benefits of Fasting

Fasting sharpens our efforts at combating sin and acting charitably; thereby helping us resist the temptation of reducing Advent into an extended shopping spree. From fasting, we receive the grace to gaze upon the manger instead of Walmart, the shepherds instead of indecent “super” models, the Magi instead of Macy’s. A consumer-centered Christmas would have us believe that our longings can be satiated with the latest gift item or fashion trend. But fasting’s discomfort reminds us that satisfaction from material goods is fleeting; only God, the source and end of all regular desires, can truly satisfy. As Saint Augustine reminds us, “Our hearts are restless until they rest on You, Lord.”

Mary and Joseph Jouneying to BethlehemFasting produces another benefit, and it is one that points to the essence of Advent – longing. When we fast, our bodies clamor for what we have willingly forsaken, be it food, comfort, entertainment, or other goods. As Catholics, we can respond with prayer: “Lord, hasten to fill the emptiness within me this Christmas, as I know only you can fully satisfy the longings of my soul.” With an empty stomach and an expectant heart, the age-old prayer of Israel – O come, O come, Emmanuel –rings with new meaning.

Fasting is more necessary than ever, for we live in times where instant gratification reigns supreme; where a great number of human beings are encouraged to enslave themselves to a gadget, a vice or worse. Fasting helps gain back a degree of control in our lives, which is real freedom.

 

As You Light the Second Candle...

On the Second Sunday of Advent, with your loved ones, or the memory of your loved ones, gathered with you around the Advent Wreath, it is now time to continue the age-old tradition of lighting the second purple candle along with the first.

A prayer of your choice may accompany this lighting, or continue the prayer provided in the First Sunday of Advent:

Advent wreath with 2 candles lit

Before lighting the candle, pray—
O God, Rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us,
Brightening our way and guiding us by His truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world,
And to us as we wait for His coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adding the following invocation according to week—

Second week:

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,
Only joy of every heart,
Come and save your people.

 

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Third Sunday of Advent coming soon......

 

 

 

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Fourth Sunday of Advent coming soon......

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for December 6, 2019

The people of this world are wary of evil-doing for fear of...

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December 6

 

The people of this world are wary of evil-doing
for fear of temporal punishment.
How much more, then, should they be wary for fear of
the punishment of Hell, which is greater,
both in respect to its severity and in respect to its manifold nature:
Remember thy last end, and thou shall never sin.”

St. Thomas Aquinas


DEFEND Our Lady's HONOR !

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Nicholas of Bari

He suffered imprisonment for his faith and made a glorious c...

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St. Nicholas of Bari

Nicholas is thought to have been born in Patara, Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra was the capital, close to the ocean, and an episcopal see. When the see became vacant, Nicholas was chosen bishop and became famous and beloved for his extraordinary piety, zeal and many astonishing miracles.

He suffered imprisonment for his faith and made a glorious confession during the persecution of Diocletian.

He was also present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. St. Methodius asserts that thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, Myra alone was untouched by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Legend has it that the tradition of gift giving attached to St. Nicholas comes from the fact that he once helped a father and his three daughters. Hearing that they were destitute, and therefore could find no husbands, he slipped a bag of gold through the family’s window under the cover of darkness. At intervals, he did the same for the second and third girl, saving all three from a life of want and shame.

Nicholas died and was buried in his city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian, there was already a basilica built in his honor in Constantinople. Later, his relics were moved to the city of Bari, Italy, and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.

The devotion to St. Nicholas spread not only in the East but also in the West, and his image was amply reproduced, second only to that of Our Lady. In the later Middle Ages, there were nearly four hundred churches in England alone dedicated to him. In the East, St. Nicholas is venerated as patron of sailors, and in the West, of children.

In several European countries he is beloved as the pre-Christmas “gift giver”. The modern “Santa Claus” is a secular corruption of the saint.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged t...

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The Heavenly Baker

In the time when Saint Catherine of Siena walked the streets of her quaint medieval town, she sometimes stayed at the house of a widow-friend, Alessia, to avoid the distractions of her noisy home.

One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat. The bread made from this wheat had a sour after-taste. But as the new harvest came in, and there was fresh wheat to buy, Alessia remarked to St. Catherine:

“Mother, this old wheat makes sour bread, so as the Lord has had pity on us, I will throw away the little that I still have.”

“You wish to throw away what the Lord has given us for our food?” replied Catherine, “at least give it to those who don’t even have that.”

“O, I feel guilty giving from the old wheat…I’d rather give from the new, fresh batch,” remonstrated Alessia.

Saint Catherine then asked that she give her the flour and some water, for she wished to make bread for the poor of Our Lord.

As Catherine worked, not only did she produce an astounding number of loaves from so little flour, but turned them out so fast that Alessia and her maid couldn’t believe their eyes.

Served at table, everyone was amazed how delicious and sweet these loaves were. “We haven’t tasted better!” they exclaimed. 

Moreover, when taken out to the poor and to the Friars, the bin kept giving without emptying.

Sometime later, on hearing of this miracle, St. Catherine’s confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua, sensed that there was something “more” to this story, and pressed his spiritual child to tell him all.

So Catherine explained that as she had approached the flour box, she had seen the sweet Lady Mary standing there with several angels and saints graciously offering to help her make the bread.  So Mary Most Holy began to work the dough with Catherine, and by virtue of those immaculate hands not only was the wheat made sweet, but the number of loaves multiplied. 

“The Madonna herself gave me the loaves as she made them,” related Catherine, “and I passed them onto Alessia and her maid.”

“No wonder,” writes Blessed Raymond in his biography of Saint Catherine, “that that bread seemed so sweet , since it was made by the perfect hands of the holy queen, in whose most sacred body, the Trinity made the Bread that came down from heaven to give life to all unbelievers.”

And the same writer asserts that years after in Siena, people still treasured pieces of this blessed bread as relics. 

 

Taken from The Life of Saint Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua - By Andrea F. Phillips

 

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One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat.

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