Let us pray that we may take Christ’s coming seriously.
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.Read more
The name Advent (From the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming) is applied, in the Latin Church, to that period of the year, during which the Church requires the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. The mystery of that great day had every right to the honor of being prepared for by prayer and works of penance; and, in fact, it is impossible to state, with any certainty, when this season of preparation (which had long been observed before receiving its present name of Advent) was first instituted. It would seem, however, that its observance first began in the west, since it is evident that Advent could not have been looked on as a preparation for the feast of Christmas, until that feast was definitively fixed to the 25th of December; which was done in the east only toward the close of the fourth century; whereas it is certain that the Church of Rome kept the feast on that day at a much earlier period. Read more
The song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the Church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember. To fit the number scheme, when you reach number 9, representing the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, the originator combined 6 to make 3, taking the 6 fruits that were similar: the fruit in each parenthesis is the that was not named separately. There are actually Twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost. Read more
Wreaths symbolize eternity because they are in circular form, without a beginning or an end, so to speak. Before Christ came wreaths had long been in use, as symbols of fertility, victory, and the like. The first Christians kept the habit of adornment with wreaths but with more significance than ever, as various kinds came to represent the various aspects of the Christian life and the life of Our Lord and His Mother: Bay for the Passion of Christ, not just for mourning as before, the evergreen for eternity because it lasts so long without withering [fidelity and God unchanging], the holly and ivy and the Passion, but used at Christmas time, and the pomegranate, as seen above, which symbolizes the Church, because of the fruits almost countless seeds, and for the hope we place in the Resurrection. A special form of wreath is the Advent Wreath, lit each evening by a designated member of the family. Read more
Based on articles by Rev. H J Heagney. Litt D; Norman Griffin; Fr. Frances Weiser, SJ, Introduction and Compilation by Pauly Fongemie
Introduction and background
There are several Saint Nicholases, two of whom, found in many a Saints’ dictionary is actually the same Saint, that of St. Nicholas of Bari and Myra, because he was given the first name last, since his his relics are reposed there, and the second name comes from his Bishopric see in Asia Minor. he is our subject here. But before we present the true story of “Santa Claus” let us list some of the other Saint Nicholases: St. Nicholas of Flüe, Patron of Switzerland; St. Nicholas of Tolentino; and St. Nicholas I, Pope in the 9th century. St. Nicholas, of Myra or Bari is venerated in both the Latin and Greek calendar of Saints on December 6. He belongs to the fourth century, suffering under the persecution of Christians waged by the Roman emperor, Diocletian, and is believed to have worked a miracle in restoring three kidnapped children who had been dismembered when he was the Bishop of Myra. Thus is derived his patronage of children. The giving of gifts in honor of the Saint became a tradition through an act of generosity in another matter as you will read below. Read more
The ilex or holly, and the ivy, both evergreen plants are traditional Christmas symbols: the holly for part of the same reason as the Glastonbury Rose is, because it represents the Crown of Thorns that the Savior will wear during His Passion. The holly has little sharp points all around its edges, much like a thorn and one can easily prick a finger by touching the leaf carelessly. The berries represent the drops of Blood He shed. Moreover, the holly is held by tradition to be of the same plant as the wood of the Cross was said to come from. During Advent and Christmas Christians acknowledge the need for a Savior and holly reminds them of this: the holly bough is one of St. John the Baptist’s symbols; the Saint heralded our Lord’s coming as Isaiah did in the Old Testament. Read more
The decorating of an evergreen tree at Christmas as we know it can be traced back to an old German custom, and more popularly known, Victorian England. Just as the evergreen wreath symbolizes eternity and fidelity, so the lush evergreen tree can be said to represent the same. Scripture is filled with the significance of trees, in both the Old and New Testaments, see the Psalm below. Generally the tree is not decorated until late Christmas Eve as Advent is still a season of penance, if not as filled with sorrow as Lent is. However, some families find the preparation for Mass the next day Christmas dinner to be of such importance that the Christmas Eve is taken up with these preparations, so on the Third Sunday of Advent, they choose to put up the family tree. Certainly the tree should not be up the day after Thanksgiving as is done in so many homes today. Customarily the tree should be adorned with little family treasures and religious symbols. Bright balls and lights are fine also and lend a festive touch especially for children of all ages, as do handmade garlands from natural items, such as popcorn or berries; little birds are very appropriate for the symbolism and dried plants and fruits. The idea of jolly Santas, elves, Christmas puppies in socks, etc., are of more recent development and not appropriate because we are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Many families place the crèche under the tree and gifts, if exchanged, are not placed there until Christmas Day or after Midnight Mass.
In our modern world of technology, rapid communication, and sense of “immediacy,” does the Season of Advent and its tone of anticipation remain relevant? Or, should we give up the battle of “advent” and go along with the culture of commercialized Christmas? What good is being accomplished as we light an Advent candle week-after-week, knowing full well that almost everything else surrounding us is blaring, “hark the bargains” instead of “hark the herald”? Read more
When Pope Francis visits Burma, also known as Myanmar, later this month, his visit will come at one of the most contentious periods of the country’s history.
In recent months, state-supported violence against Burma’s Rohingya Muslim community—an ethnic and religious minority– has reached staggering levels, causing the UN to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Read more