|His Historical and Future Coming|
|Somber anticipation, restrained joy|
|Advent candles, empty crib, St. John the Baptist, the Ten Virgins|
|the 4th Sunday before Christmas to 24 December|
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 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, and the 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."
To sum up the similarities and differences between Advent and Lent as penitential seasons, there's this, by Fr. Lawrence Smith:
Advent is the time to make ready for Christ to live with us. Lent is the time to make us ready to die with Christ. Advent makes Lent possible. Lent makes salvation possible. Advent is the time when eternity approaches earth. Lent is the time when time reaches consummation in Christ's eternal Sacrifice to the Father. Advent leads to Christ's life in time on earth. Lent leads to Christ's eternal Life in Heaven. The Cross -- through the Mass, penance, and mortification -- is the bridge connecting Advent and Lent, Christ and His Church, man and God.
Each of the Church's penitential seasons is a dying to the world with the goal of attaining new life in Christ.
Catholic apologist Jacob Michael wrote something very interesting about how secular America sees "Christmas" as beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on 25 December, and then makes "New Years Resolutions" at the beginning of the secular year. From Mr. Michael's article at Robert Sungenis's "Catholic Apologetics International" website:
...what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming.
We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes -- and that Coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it's too late -- Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.
So please, restore Advent and don't think "Christmas is here" until it truly comes. One way to help you do this is to think of the Saint who embodies the spirit of this Season more than any other: the great St. John the Baptist. If you have an icon of him, venerate it especially now. Make special prayers to him and consider the message of this "voice of one crying in the desert": "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." You will note that the readings of the second, third, and fourth Sundays of Advent focus on St. John, the earthly herald of Christ's coming whom St. Ephraem likened to the Star of Bethlehem as the Heavenly herald of His coming.
St. Ephraem also wrote these words which recall the Forerunner's message of preparation:
To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments. He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savour: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly. Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfilment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.
He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.
Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faint-heartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.
When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: Wake up, you just, and I have risen, and am still with you; and again, Do not lose heart.
Advent is also season of preparation in a more
mundane sense. Homes are cleaned from top to bottom, and Christmas cookies and
cakes are often made by the hundreds, for family and to give out to friends and
acquaintances when Christmas finally arrives.
Christmas trees shouldn't be decorated until Christmas Eve because Advent itself should remain penitential, but time can be wonderfully spent making Christmas Tree ornaments throughout the Season for when Christmas finally arrives.
On the first day of Advent, Catholic families
will set up Advent wreath -- a wreath of greenery adorned by a set of four
candles -- three violet-colored, and one rose-colored. The wreath is either set
upon a table (especially the dining room table), on the family altar, an end
table, etc., or it can by suspended by ribbons from the ceiling, such as from a
light fixture. The candles can be long, slim tapers, small votives, or fat
pillars (or they can be white candles inserted into appropriately colored glass
candle holders). There can be pinecones and such adorning the greenery, but
because Advent is a penitential season, it shouldn't be highly decorated with
The circular shape of the wreath is a symbol of eternity, and the greenery symbolizes hope and renewal. The color of the violet candles symbolizes penance and the preparatory sacrifices made during this season, while the color of the rose candle represents joy.
Each candle also represents one of the four weeks of Advent, and one thousand years of the four thousand years that (at least metaphorically) passed between Adam and Eve to Christ's coming.
The first, purple candle also recalls the Patriarchs; the second, purple candle recalls the Prophets; the third, rose candle recalls St. John the Baptist, and the final, purple candle recalls Our Lady.
The violet candles are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Advent. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday ("Gaudete Sunday," when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass), a day of rejoicing because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent and anticipate Christmas. One more candle is lit each week at dinnertime, the progressive lighting of the candles symbolizing the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead. The candles are kept burning throughout the Sunday supper, and then are immediately blown out afterward (candles can be replaced and greenery freshened as needed).
At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Advent wreath is replaced by a white "Christ candle" that is suitably adorned (such as with holly, or by being carved with symbols of Christ, etc.). This Christ Candle is used until the Ephiphany or Candlemas, depending on the family's particular Christmas customs. The greenery of the Advent wreath can now be decorated and turned into a Christmas wreath for use throughout the Christmas season.
Below are prayers for the blessing of the wreath and the lighting of the candles each week.
Advent Wreath Rituals
The Day Before Advent
Blessing of the Wreath
Father: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
First Sunday of Advent
As Mother lights the 1st purple candle
Scripture (John 1:1-5; Psalm 49:2-5,
Father: In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Out of Sion the loveliness of his beauty. God shall come manifestly: our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. A fire shall burn before him: and a mighty tempest shall be round about him. He shall call heaven from above, and the earth, to judge his people. Gather ye together his saints to him: who set his covenant before sacrifices.
Give to the king thy judgment, O God: and to the king's son thy justice: To judge thy people with justice, and thy poor with judgment. Let the mountains receive peace for the people: and the hills justice. He shall judge the poor of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor: and he shall humble the oppressor. And he shall continue with the sun, and before the moon, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth. In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken sway. And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty: and the needy that had no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy: and he shall save the souls of the poor. He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquity: and their names shall be honourable in his sight. And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, for him they shall always adore: they shall bless him all the day.
Father: Stir up Thy power, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and come: that from the threatening dangers of our sins we may deserve to be rescued by Thy protection, and to be saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.
Father: Alleluia, alleluia. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam, et salutare tuum da nobis. Amen. (Alleluia, alleluia. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy; and grant us Thy salvation. Alleluia.)
Second Sunday of Advent
As Mother lights the 1st and 2nd purple candles in order
Scripture (Isaias 11:1-10):
Father: And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: land he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb: and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: the calf and the lion, and the sheep shall abide together, and a little child shall lead them. The calf and the bear shall feed: their young ones shall rest together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp: and the weaned child shall thrust his hand into the den of the basilisk. They shall not hurt, nor shall they kill in all my holy mountain, for the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the covering waters of the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.
Father: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we mat attain to serve Thee with purified minds. Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.
Father: Alleluia, alleluia. Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Alleluia. (Alleluia, alleluia. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go unto the house of the Lord. Alleluia.)
Third Sunday of Advent
As Mother lights the 1st and 2nd purple candles
and the rose candle in order
Scripture (Isaias 9:2, 6-7, 40:3-5, 52:7,
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and that preacheth peace: of him that sheweth forth good, that preacheth salvation, that saith to Sion: Thy God shall reign!
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
Father: Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.
Father: Alleluia, alleluia. Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni ut salvos facias nos. Alleluia. (Alleluia, alleluia. Stir up, O Lord, Thy might, and come to save us. Alleluia.)
Fourth Sunday of Advent
As Mother lights all the candles in order
Scripture (Luke 1:24-33, 2:1-6; Apocalypse
And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
He that giveth testimony of these things, saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Father: O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.
Father: Alleluia, alleluia. Veni, Domine, et noli tardare: relaxa facinora plebis tuae Israel. Alleluia. (Alleluia, alleluia. Come, O Lord, and tarry not: forgive the sins of Thy people Israel. Alleluia.)
By Father Lawrence S. Brey, December 1, 2005
Advent is a time of joy,
A time of Holy Expectation.
We soon expect the Tiny Boy:
We wait and long with all Creation.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel-
That's what Advent's all about!
He comes to save us all from Hell:
Of that, for sure, there is no doubt!
Veni, Veni, Christus Rex:
We long for Thee, we sigh for Thee!
O Come, remove the Devil's Hex:
O Come, Lord God, and make us Free!
Advent is the "Coming " we await:
As generations before did wait.
With "Holy Impatience" do we wait.
O Hurry, Lord, Don't Hesitate!
O come, please come, we long and languish!
We sigh and groan and wait and long,
For Thee, O Lord, to end our anguish!
O come, this is our "Advent Song".
It's a holy Advent song we sing:
A song of Holy Expectation!
A song we sing for every Nation!
A song of holy Inspiration!
A song of great Anticipation!
A song to bring our Transformation!
A song of greatest Jubilation!
A song of endless Celebration!
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And Thus Fulfill Our Expectation!
If, having described the characteristic
features of Advent which distinguish it from the rest of the year, we would
penetrate into the profound Mystery which occupies the mind of the Church during
this season, we find that the Mystery of this Coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at
once simple and threefold. It is simple for it is the one same Son of God that
is coming; it is threefold because He comes at three different times and in
three different ways.
'In the first coming,' says St. Bernard, 'He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.'
This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to an explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third sermon de Adventu: 'There are three comings of Our Lord; the first in the flesh; the second in the soul; the third at judgment. The first was at midnight according to the words of the Gospel: At Midnight there was a cry made, Lo, the Bridegroom cometh! But this first coming is long since past for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come to us and take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty for us; for who, save the spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes, but whence He cometh or whither He goeth they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security, says the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, He renders us just by His grace; in His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends.'
The holy Church, therefore, during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardour the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming. For this, she borrows the fervid expressions of the prophets, to which she joins her own supplications. These longings for the Messias expressed by the Church, are not a mere commemoration of the desires of the ancient Jewish people; they have a reality and efficacy of their own, an influence in the great act of God's munificence, whereby He gave us His own Son. From all eternity, the prayers of the ancient Jewish people and the prayers of the Christian Church ascended together to the prescient hearing of God; and it was after the receiving and granting them, that He sent, in the appointed time, that blessed Dew upon the earth, which made it bud forth the Savior.
The Church aspires also to the second coming, the consequence of the first, which consists, as we have just seen, in the visit of the Bridegroom to the bride. This coming takes place, each year, at the feast of Christmas, when the new birth of the Son of God delivers the faithful from that yoke of bondage, under which the enemy would oppress them. The Church, therefore, during Advent, prays that she may be visited by Him who is her Head and her Spouse; visited in her hierarchy; visited in her members, of whom some are living, and some are dead, but may come to life again; visited, lastly, in those who are not in communion with her, and even in the very infidels, that so they may be converted to the true light, which shines even for them. The expressions of the liturgy which the Church makes use of to ask for this loving and invisible coming, are those which she employs when begging for the coming of Jesus in the flesh; for the two visits are for the same object. In vain would the Son of God have come, nineteen hundred years ago, to visit and save mankind, unless He came again for each one of us and at every moment of our lives, bringing to us and cherishing within us that supernatural life, of which He and His holy Spirit are the sole principle.
But this annual visit of the Spouse does not content the Church; she aspires after a third coming which will complete all things by opening the gates of eternity. She has caught up the last words of her Spouse, 'Surely I am coming quickly,' and she cries out to Him, 'Ah! Lord Jesus Come!' She is impatient to be loosed from her present temporal state; she longs for the number of the elect to be filled up, and to see appear, in the clouds of heaven, the sign of her Deliverer and her Spouse. Her desires, expressed by her Advent liturgy, go even as far as this: and here we have the explanation of these words of the beloved disciple in his prophecy: 'The nuptials of the Lamb are come, and His wife hath prepared herself.'
But the day of His last coming to her will be a day of terror. The Church frequently trembles at the very thought of that awful judgment, in which all mankind is to be tried. She calls it 'a day of wrath, on which, as David and the Sibyl have foretold, the world will be reduced to ashes; a day of weeping and of fear.' Not that she fears for herself, since she knows that this day will for ever secure for her the crown, as being the bride of Jesus; but her maternal heart is troubled at the thought that, on the same day, so many of her children will be on the left hand of that Judge, and havng no share with the elect, will be bound hand and foot, and cast into the darkness, where there shall be everlasting weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the reason why the Church, in the liturgy of Advent, so frequently speaks of the coming of Christ as a terrible coming, and selects from the Scriptures those passages which are most calculated to awaken a salutary fear in the mind of such of her children as may be sleeping the sleep of sin.
This, then, is the threefold mystery of Advent. The liturgical forms in which it is embodied, are of two kinds: the one consists of prayers, passages from the Bible, and similar formulae, in all of which, words themselves are employed to convey the sentiments which we have been explaining; the other consists of extermal rites peculiar to this holy time, which by speaking to the outward senses, complete the expressiveness of the chants and words.
First of all, there is the number of the days of Advent. Forty was the number originally adopted by the Church, and it is still maintained in the Ambrosian liturgy, and in the eastern Church. If, at a later period, the Church of Rome, and those which follow her liturgy, have changed the number of days, the same idea is still expressed in the four weeks which have been substituted for the forty days. The new birth of our Redeemer takes place after four weeks, as the first nativity happened after four thousand years, according to the Hebrew and Vulgate chronology.
As in Lent, so likewise during Advent, marriage is not solemnized, lest worldly joy should distract Christians from those serious thoughts wherewith the expected coming of the sovereign Judge ought to inspire them or from that dearly cherished hope which the friends of the Bridegroom have of being soon called to the eternal nuptial-feast.
The people are forcibly reminded of the sadness which fills the heart of the Church, by the somber color of the vestments. Excepting on the feasts of the saints, purple is the color she uses; the deacon does not wear the dalmatic, nor the sub-deacon the tunic. Formerly it was the custom, in some places, to wear black vestments. This mourning of the Church shows how fully she unites herself with those true Israelites of old who, clothed in sack-cloth and ashes, waited for the Messias, and bewailed Sion that she had not her beauty, and Juda, that the sceptre had been taken from him, till He should come who was to be sent, the expectation of nations. It also signifies the works of penance, whereby she prepares for the second coming, full as it is of sweetness and mystery, which is realized in the souls of men, in proportion as they appreciate the tender love of that divine Guest, who has said: 'My delights are to be with the children of men.' It expresses, thirdly, the desolation of this bride who yearns after her Beloved, who is long a-coming. Like the turtle dove, she moans her loneliness, longing for the voice which will say to her: 'Come from Libanus, my bride! come and thou shalt be crowned. Thou has responded to my heart.'
The Church also, during Advent, excepting on the feasts of saints, suppresses the angelic canticle, Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis; for this glorious song was sung at Bethlehem over the crib of the divine Babe; the tongues of the angels are not loosened yet; the Virgin has not yet brought forth her divine Treasure; it is not yet time to sin, it is not even true to say, 'Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.'
Again, at the end of Mass, the deacon does not dismiss the assembly of the faithful by the words: Ite missa est. He substitutes the ordinary greeting: Benedicamus Domino! as though the Church feared to interrupt the prayers of the people, which could scarce be too long during these days of expectation.
In the night Office, the holy Church also suspends, on those same days, the hymn of jubilation, Te Deum laudamus. It is in deep humility that she awaits the supreme blessing which is to come to her; and, in the interval, she presumes only to ask, and entreat, and hope. But let the glorious hour come, when in the midst of darkest night the Sun of justice will suddenly rise upon the world: then indeed she will resume her hymn of thanksgiving, and all over the face of the earth the silence of midnight will be broken by this shout of enthusiasm: 'We praise Thee, O God! we acknowledge Thee to be our Lord! Thou, O Christ, art the King of glory, the everlasting Son of the Father! Thou being to deliver man didst not disdain the Virgin's womb!'
On the ferial days, the rubrics of Advent prescribe that certain prayers should be said kneeling, at the end of each canonical Hour, and that the choir should also kneel during a considerable portion of the Mass. In this respect, the usages of Advent are precisely the same as those of Lent.
But there is one feature which distinguishes Advent most markedy from Lent: the word of gladness, the joyful Alleluia, is not interrupted during Advent, except once or twice during the ferial Office. It is sung in the Masses of the four Sundays, and vividly contrasts with the somber color of the vestments. On one of these Sundays, the third, the prohibition of using the organ is removed, and we are gladdened by the grand notes, and rose-colored vestments may be used instead of the purple. These vestiges of joy, thus blended with the holy mournfulness of the Church, tell us, in a most expressive way, that though she unites with the ancient people of God (thus paying the debt which the entire human race owes to the justice and mercy of God), she does not forget that the Emmanuel is already come to her, that He is in her, and that even before she has opened her lips to ask Him to save her, she has already been redeemed and pre-destined to an eternal union with Him. This is the reason why the Alleluia accompanies even her sighs, and why she seems to be at once joyous and sad, waiting for the coming of that holy night which will be brighter to her than the most sunny of days, and on which her joy will expel all her sorrow.
Text courtesy of Apologia
|White or Gold|
|star, manger, candles, bells, mother and
Child, the Holy Family, angels,
Christmas candle, 3 wise men, Christmas trees, holly and ivy, poinsettias,
Glastonbury thorn, mistletoe, Christmas roses, Yule log, cardinals, robins
|With regard to liturgical
calculations: 25 December - 13 January
As a spiritual Season/liturgical cycle: 25 December - Candlemas
The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ's manifesting Himself as God and King -- to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfthnight -- 5 January -- being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ (at which time the season of Time After Epiphany begins). But Christmas doesn't end spiritually -- i.e., the celebration of the events of Christ's life as a child don't end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn't end -- until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.
In this way, just as From Ash Wednesday on, we commemorate Christ in the desert for forty days, and just as after Easter we celebrate for forty days until the Ascension, after Christmas we celebrate the Child Jesus for forty days -- all through the season of Time After Epiphany -- until Candlemas. The schema of those Christ Child celebrations looks like this:
Christ is born
|Feast of the Holy Innocents|
Herod slaughters the baby boys in order to kill the Christ Child
|The Circumcision (the Octave of
Jesus follows the Law
|Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus|
After He is circumcised, He is named and becomes a part of the Holy Family
|Twelfth Night |
The Twelve Days of Christmas as a Feast come to an end
|Feast of the Epiphany|
Jesus reveals His divinity to the three Magi, and during His Baptism, and at the wedding at Cana
|Baptism of Our Lord/Octave of the
Christmas liturgically ends with the Octave of the Epiphany.
|Feast of the Holy Family|
Jesus condescends to be subject to His parents
|Feast of the Purification (Candlemas)|
40 days after giving birth, Mary goes to the Temple to be purified and to "redeem" Jesus per the Old Testament Law of the firstborn. Christmas truly ends as a Season with Candlemas and the beginning of Septuagesima
|His Childhood Continued, His public ministry|
|Symbols of Christmas until Candlemas;
then: loaves and Fishes, Scallop shell, wine of Cana
|14 January to the Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday|
The season of Time after Epiphany is season is
more a season set up for liturgical reasons than spiritual ones, as it is
spiritually a continuation of Christmas's devotion to the Divine Childhood.
Because the date of Easter changes each year, two seasons have variable lengths
in order to balance the calendar. The Season of Time After Pentecost can have as
few as 23 Sundays or as many as 28 Sundays depending on the date of Easter. This
season can have anywhere from 4 to 38 days, depending on the date of Easter. If
this season is short, then Time after Pentecost will be longer; and if this
Season is long, Time after Pentecost will be shorter.
But the spiritual focus of the Season up 'til Candlemas is the continuation of Christmas and contemplation of the Divine Childhood. After Candlemas, the celebration of events of His young life gives way to a focus on His adult life.
Text courtesy of Apologia
|Babylonian Captivity, Man's Fallen State|
|chains, tears, Jeremias|
|Septuagesima Sunday to Shrove Tuesday|
Septuagesima and Lent are both times of
penance, Septuagesima being a time of voluntary fasting in preparation for the
obligatory Great Fast of Lent. The theme is the Babylonian exile, the "mortal
coil" we must endure as we await the Heavenly Jerusalem. Sobriety and somberness
reign liturgically; the Alleluia and Gloria are banished
The Sundays of Septugesima are named for their distance away from Easter:
|The first Sunday of Septuagesima gives its
name to the entire season as it is known as "Septuagesima." "Septuagesima"
means "seventy," and Septuagesima Sunday comes roughly seventy days before
Easter. This seventy represents the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity.
It is on this Sunday that the alleluia is "put away," not to be said again
until the Vigil of Easter. |
|The second Sunday of Septuagesima is known
as "Sexagesima, which means "sixty". Sexagesima Sunday comes roughly sixty
days before Easter.|
|The third Sunday of Septuagesima is known as "Quinquagesima," which means "fifty" and which comes roughly fifty days before Easter.|
Quadragesima means "forty," and this is the
name of the first Sunday of Lent and the Latin name for the entire season of
Throughout this short Season and that of Lent (next Season) you will notice a deepening sense of penance and somberness, culminating in Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent), that will suddenly and joyously end at the Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday when the alleluia returns and Christ's Body is restored and glorified.
The season upon which we are now entering is
expressive of several profound mysteries. But these mysteries belong not only to
the three weeks which are prearatory to Lent: they continue throughout the whole
period of time which separates us from the great feast of Easter.
The number seven is the basis of all these mysteries. We have already seen how the holy Church came to introduce the season of Septuagesima into her calendar. Let us now meditate on the doctrine hidden under the symbols of her liturgy. And first, let us listen to St. Augustine, who thus gives is the clue to the whole of our season's mysteries. 'There are two times,' says the holy Doctor: 'one which is now, and is spent in the temptations and tribulations of this life; the other which shall by then, and shall be spent in eternal security and joy. In figure of these, we celebrate two periods: the time before Easter, and the time after Easter. That which is before Easter signifies the sorrow of this present life; that which is after Easter, the blessedness of our future state... Hence it is that we spend the first in fasting and prayer; and in the second we give up our fasting, and give ourselves to praise.'
The Church, the intepreter of the sacred Scriptures, often speaks to us of two places, which correspond with these two times of St. Augustine. These two places are Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is the image of this world of sin, in the midst whereof the Christian has to spend his years of probation; Jerusalem is the heavenly country, where he is to repose after all his trials. The people of Israel, whose whole history is but one great type of the human race, was banished from Jerusalem and kept in bondage in Babylon.
Now, this captivity, which kept the Israelites exiles from Sion, lasted seventy years; and it is to express this mystery, as Alcuin, Amalarius, Ivo of Chartres, and all the great liturgists tell us, that the Church fixed the number of seventy for the days of expiation. It is true, there are but sixty-three days between Septuagesima and Easter; but the Church, according to the style so continually used in the sacred Scriptures, uses the round number instead of the literal and precise one.
The duration of the world itself, according to the ancient Christian tradition, is divided into seven ages. The human race must pass through the seven ages before the dawning of the day of eternal life. The first age included the time from the creation of Adam to Noah; the second begins with Noah and the renovation of the earth by the deluge, and ends with this the vocation of Abraham; the third opens with this first formation of God's chosen people, and continues as far as Moses, through whom God gave the Law; the fourth consists of the period between Moses and David, in whom the house of Juda received the kingly power; the fifth is formed of the years which passed between David's reign and the captivity of Babylon, inclusively; the sixth dates from the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and takes us on as far as the birth of our Saviour. Then, finally, comes the seventh age; it starts with the rising of this merciful Redeemer, the Sun of justice, and is to continue till the dread coming of the Judge of the livng and the dead. These are the seven great divisions of time; after which, eternity.
In order to console us in the midst of the combats, which so thickly beset our path, the Church, like a beacon shining amidst the darkness of this our earthly abode, shows us another seven, which is to succeed the one we are now preparing to pass through. After the Septuagesima of mourning, we shall have the bright Easter with its seven weeks of gladness, foreshadowing the happiness and bliss of heaven. After having fasted with our Jesus, and suffered with Him, the day will come when we shall rise together with Him, and our hearts shall follow Him to the hightest heavesn; and then after a brief interval, we shall feel the Holy Ghost descending upon us, with His seven Gifts. The celebration of all these wondrous joys will take us seven weeks, as the great liturgists observe in their interpretation of the rites of the Church. The seven joyous weeks from Easter to Pentecost will not be too long for the future glad mysteries, which, after all, will be but figures of a still gladder future, the future of eternity.
Having heard these sweet whisperings of hope, let us now bravely face the realities brought before us by our dear mother the Church. We are sojourners upon this earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river's bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem. She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to 'sing the song of the Lord in a strange land'? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage, or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.
These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heavne, the sweet Alleluia; but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord, let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God's enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that 'praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.'
The leading feature, then, of Septuagesima, is the total suspension of the Alleluia, which is not to again be heard upon the earth until the arrival of that happy day, when having suffered death with our Jesus, and having been buried together with Him, we shall rise again with Him to a new life.
The sweet hymn of the angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo, which we have sung every Sunday since the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem, is also taken from us; it is only on the feasts of the saints which may by kept during the week that we shall be allowed to repeat it. The night Office of the Sunday is to lose also, from now till Easter, its magnificent Ambrosian hymn, the Te Deum; and at the end of the holy Sacrifice, the deacon will no longer dismiss the faithful with his solemn Ite, Missa est, but will simply invite them to continue their prayers in silence, and bless the Lord, the God of mercy, who bears with us, notwithstanding all our sins.
After the Gradual of the Mass, instead of the thrice repeated Alleluia, which prepared our hearts to listen to the voice of God in the holy Gospel, we hsall hear but a mournful and protracted chant, called, on that account, the Tract.
That the eye, too, may teach us that the season we are entering on is one of mourning, the Church will vest her ministers (both on Sundays and on the days during the week which are not feasts of Saints) in the sombre purple. Until Ash Wednesday, however, she permits the deacon to wear his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; but from that day forward, they must lay aside these vestments of joy, for Lent will then have begun and our holy mother will inspire us with the deep spirit of penance, but suppressing everything of that glad pomp, which she loves at other seasons, to bring into the sanctuary of her God.
|White or Gold|
|empty tomb, the Paschal Candle, egg,
lamb, phoenix, bells, butterflies, flowers
|Easter Sunday - Vespers of Trinity Sunday|
Easter, which begins this Season, is the
greatest Feast of the year for Christ is risen! The alleluia, which was omitted
from the Mass since Septuagesima, returned at Vespers on Holy Saturday, and is
now heard after every Introit, Antiphon verse, and Response. The Vidi Aquam
replaces the Aspèrges, and the Regina Coeli replaces the Angelus. The Paschal
candle remains lit in the Sanctuary until Ascension Thursday, and like the
Christ Candle during the Twelve Days of Christmas, we have a Paschal Candle in
our homes, too, until the Ascension )...and the Lenten fast is over!
During this Season, we are obliged to receive the Eucharist to fulfill the Church precept that we receive the Eucharist at least once a year. During Lent, most of us have already fulfilled the precept to go to Confession at least once a year, but if we haven't, we can do that now.
During the Octave of Easter, we greet each other (and even answer our telephones) with the triumphant "Christus resurrexit!" (Christ is risen!) to which comes the response "Et apparuit Simoni, alleluia" (and appeared unto Simon, alleluia!). This joyous greeting totally crystallizes the mood of this season.
A note on terminology: The word "Easter" is actually a word rooted in the name either of an alleged Teutonic goddess (Eostre) or, more probably, from the name "Eostur" meaning the "season of rising" and indicating springtime. It is only used in the English language. It came into use because the month of April was known in Anglo-Saxon countries as easter-monadh, and Eastur became an old Germanic word meaning springtime. Other languages have different names for Easter -- "Pascha" (Latin and Greek), "Pasqua" (Italian), "Pascua" (Spanish), "Paschen" (Dutch), Pasg (Welsh), etc. -- all of which derives from the Hebrew word "Pesach" meaning "Passover." The point is that the claim that "Easter is a pagan holiday" because of the word "Easter" is ridiculous. The English word for it might have pagan origins deriving from Eostre and/or the word for springtime, but the Solemnity is rooted in the Old Testament Pesach which was fulfilled at the Crucifixion which gave us the fruits of the Resurrection. In addition, all the names for the days of the week are "pagan" in origin, too. Sunday is named for the Sun; Monday for the Moon; Tuesday for god Tiu, Wednesday for Woden, Thursday for Thor, Friday for Freya, and Saturday for Saturn, so anyone who balks at celebrating "Easter" because of its "pagan origins" had better not refer to the days of the week by their English names!
Of all the seasons of the liturgical year
Eastertide is by far the richest in mystery. We might even say that Easter is
the summit of the Mystery of the sacred Liturgy. The Christian who is happy
enough to enter, with his whole mind and heart, into the knowledge and love of
the Paschal Mystery, has reached the very centre of the supernatural life. Hence
it is that the Church uses every effort in order to effect this: what she has
hitherto done was all intended as a preparation for Easter. The holy longings of
Advent, the sweet joys of Christmas, the severe truths of Septuagesima, the
contrition and penance of Lent, the heartrending sight of the Passion-all were
given us as preliminaries, as paths, to the sublime and glorious Pasch, which is
And that we might be convinced of the supreme importance of this solemnity, God willed that the Christian Easter and Pentecost should be prepared by those of the Jewish Law-a thousand five hundred years of typical beauty prefigured the reality: and that reality is ours!
During these days, then, we have brought before us the two great manifestations of God's goodness towards mankind-the Pasch of Israel, and the Christian Pasch, the Pentecost of Sinai, and the Pentecost of the Church. We shall have occasion to show how the ancient figures were fulfilled in the realities of the new Easter and Pentecost, and how the twilight of the Mosaic Law made way for the full daylight of the Gospel; but we cannot resist the feeling of holy reverence, at the bare thought that the solemnities we have now to celebrate are more than three thousand years old, and that they are to be renewed every year from this till the voice of the angel shall be heard proclaiming: 'Time shall be no more!' The gates of eternity will then be thrown open.
Eternity in heaven is the true Pasch: hence, our Pasch here on earth is the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. The human race was dead; it was the victim of that sentence, whereby it was condemned to lie mere dust in the tomb; the gates of life were shut against it. But see! the Son of God rises from his grave and takes possession of eternal life. Nor is he the only one that is to die no more, for, as the Apostle teaches us, 'He is the first-born from the dead.' The Church would, therefore, have us consider ourselves as having already risen with our Jesus, and as having already taken possession of eternal life. The holy Fathers bid us look on these fifty days of Easter as the image of our eternal happiness. They are days devoted exclusively to joy; every sort of sadness is forbidden; and the Church cannot speak to her divine Spouse without joining to her words that glorious cry of heaven, the Alleluia, wherewith, as the holy Liturgy says, the streets and squares of the heavenly Jerusalem resound without ceasing. We have been forbidden the use of this joyous word during the past nine weeks; it behoved us to die with Christ-but now that we have risen together with him from the tomb, and that we are resolved to die no more that death which kills the soul and caused our Redeemer to die on the cross, we have a right to our Alleluia.
The providence of God, who has established harmony between the visible world and the supernatural work of grace, willed that the Resurrection of our Lord should take place at that particular season of the year when even Nature herself seems to rise from the grave. The meadows give forth their verdure, the trees resume their foliage, the birds fill the air with their songs, and the sun, the type of our triumphant Jesus, pours out his floods of light on our earth made new by lovely spring. At Christmas the sun had little power, and his stay with us was short; it harmonized with the humble birth of our Emmanuel, who came among us in the midst of night, and shrouded in swaddling clothes, but now he is 'as a giant that runs his way, and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.' Speaking, in the Canticle, to the faithful soul, and inviting her to take her part in this new life which he is now imparting to every creature, our Lord himself says: 'Arise, my dove, and come! Winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land. The voice of the turtle is heard. The fig-tree hath put forth her green figs. The vines, in flower, yield their sweet smell. Arise thou, and come!'
In the preceding chapter we explained why our Saviour chose the Sunday for his Resurrection, whereby he conquered death and proclaimed life to the world. It was on this favoured day of the week that he had, four thousand years previously, created the light, by selecting it now for the commencement of the new life which he graciously imparts to man, he would show us that Easter is the renewal of the entire creation. Not only is the anniversary of his glorious Resurrection to be, henceforward, the greatest of days, but every Sunday throughout the year is to be a sort of Easter, a holy and sacred day. The Synagogue, by God's command, kept holy the Saturday or the Sabbath in honour of God's resting after the six days of the creation; but the Church, the Spouse, is commanded to honour the work of her Lord. She allows the Saturday to pass-it is the day on which her Jesus rested in the sepulchre: but, now-that she is illumined with the brightness of the Resurrection, she devotes to the contemplation of his work the first day of the week; it is the day of light, for on it he called forth material light (which was the first manifestation of life upon chaos), and on the same, he that is the 'Brightness of the Father,' and 'the Light of the world,' rose from the darkness of the tomb.
Let, then, the week with its Sabbath pass by; what we Christians want is the eighth day, the day that is beyond the measure of time, the day of eternity, the day whose light is not intermittent or partial, but endless and unlimited. Thus speak the holy Fathers, when explaining the substitution of the Sunday for the Saturday. It was, indeed, right that man should keep, as the day of his weekly and spiritual repose, that on which the Creator of the visible world had taken his divine rest; but it was a commemoration of the material creation only. The Eternal Word comes down in the world that he has created; he comes with the rays of his divinity clouded beneath the humble veil of our flesh; he comes to fulfil the figures of the first Covenant. Before abrogating the Sabbath, he would observe it as he did every tittle of the Law; he would spend it as the day of rest, after the work of his Passion, in the silence of the sepulchre: but, early on the eighth day, he rises to life, and the life is one of glory. 'Let us,' says the learned and pious Abbot Rupert, 'leave the Jews to enjoy the ancient Sabbath, which is a memorial of the visible creation. They know not how to love or desire or merit aught but earthly things.... They would not recognize this world's creator as their king, because he said: "Blessed are the poor!" and "Woe to the rich!" But our Sabbath has been transferred from the seventh to the eighth day, and the eighth is the first. And rightly was the seventh changed into the eighth, because we Christians put our joy in a better work than the creation of the world.... Let the lovers of the world keep a Sabbath for its creation: but our joy is in the salvation of the world, for our life, yea and our rest, is hidden with Christ in God.'
The mystery of the seventh followed by an eighth day, as the holy one, is again brought before us by the number of weeks which form Eastertide. These weeks are seven; they form a week of weeks, and their morrow is again a Sunday, the glorious feast of Pentecost. These mysterious numbers-which God himself fixed when he instituted the first Pentecost after the first Pasch-were adopted by the Apostles when they regulated the Christian Easter, as we learn from St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Isidore, Amalarius, Rabanus Maurus and from all the ancient interpreters of the mysteries of the holy Liturgy. 'If we multiply seven by seven' says St. Hilary, 'we shall find that this holy season is truly the Sabbath of sabbaths, but what completes it and raises it to the plenitude of the Gospel, is the eighth day which follows, eighth and first both together in itself. The Apostles have given so sacred an institution to these seven weeks that, during them, no one should kneel, or mar by fasting the spiritual joy of this long feast. The same institution has been extended to each Sunday; for this day which follows the Saturday has become, by the application of the progress of the Gospel the completion of the Saturday, and the day of feast and joy.'
Thus, then, the whole season of Easter is marked with the mystery expressed by each Sunday of the year. Sunday is to us the great day of our week, because beautified with the splendour of our Lord's Resurrection of which the creation of material light was but a type. We have already said that this institution was prefigured in the Old Law, although the Jewish people were not in any way aware of it. Their Pentecost fell on the fiftieth day after the Pasch; it was the morrow of the seven weeks. Another figure of our Eastertide was the year of Jubilee, which God bade Moses prescribe to his people. Each fiftieth year the houses and lands that had been alienated during the preceding -forty-nine returned to their original owners; and those Israelites who had been compelled by poverty to sell themselves as slaves recovered their liberty. This year, which was properly called the sabbatical year, was the sequel of the preceding seven weeks of years, and was thus the image of our eighth day, whereon the Son of Mary, by his Resurrection, redeemed us from the slavery of the tomb, and restored us to the inheritance of our immortality.
The rites peculiar to Eastertide, in the present discipline of the Church, are two: the unceasing repetition of the Alleluia, of which we have already spoken, and the colour of the vestments used for its two great solemnities, white for the first and red for the second. White is appropriate to the Resurrection: it is the mystery of eternal light, which knows neither spot nor shadow; it is the mystery that produces in a faithful soul the sentiment of purity and joy. Pentecost, which gives us the Holy Spirit, the 'consuming Fire,' is symbolized by the red vestments, which express the mystery of the divine Paraclete coming down in the form of fiery tongues upon them that were assembled in the Cenacle. With regard to the ancient usage of not kneeling during Paschal Time, we have already said that there is a mere vestige of it now left in the Latin Liturgy.
The feasts of the saints, which were interrupted during Holy Week, are likewise excluded from the first eight days of Eastertide; but when these are ended, we shall have them in rich abundance, as a bright constellation of stars round the divine Sun of Justice, our Jesus. They will accompany us in our celebration of his admirable Ascension; but such is the grandeur of the mystery of Pentecost, that from the eve of that day they will be again interrupted until the expiration of Paschal Time.
The rites of the primitive Church with reference to the Neophytes, who were regenerated by baptism on the night of Easter, are extremely interesting and instructive. But as they are peculiar to the two octaves of Easter and Pentecost, we will explain them when they are brought before us by the Liturgy of those days.
On this, the holiest day of the
entire year, and for the entire Octave of Easter, the Easter table should be
adorned with the best of everything -- the most beautiful china, a pure, white
tablecloth, the best possible wine, flowers (especially pussy willow, lilies,
and spring bulb flowers), etc., all with the colors white and gold --
symbolizing purity and glory -- and the traditional symbols of Easter
predominating. And we should look our best, too; it is common for those who can
afford it to buy a new outfit to wear on this day. This custom springs from the
idea of "newness" inherent in the entire Season -- the new members of the Church
baptized at the Vigil in their new Baptismal albs, the New Law, a new life in
The Paschal Candle representing the Light of Christ (Lumen Christi) is the centerpiece of the table today and, like the Paschal Candle at church, is relit each day (such as at dinner and during family prayer) until the Feast of the Ascension in 40 days when the Light of the World leaves us to ascend to His Father. The candle should be large and white, and should be surrounded with flowers and the symbols of Easter. It can be carved with the Cross and the numbers for the current year as the church's Paschal Candle was yesterday -- first the Cross, then the Greek letters, then the numbers of the current year as in the diagram below. The cuts can be painted to make them stand out (try gold or deep red paint), and 5 grains of incense can be inserted at the ends and center of the Cross to symbolize the 5 Wounds (some people use cloves in place of incense at home, but if you have 5 grains of incense blessed on the Feast of the Epiphany, all the better) . The words to pray when making the cuts: 1
Readings for Easter
And here are a few gorgeous readings for you to read over Easter dinner. The first is a sermon given by St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407); the second was written by Fortunatus, who lived ca. A.D. 530 - 609. Fortunatus was a student at Ravenna, Italy when he became almost blind. He was healed when he annointed his eyes with oil that burned in a lamp before an altar to St. Martin of Tours, for whom he later wrote a lengthy poem (one of his poems, by the way, inspired St. Thomas Aquinas's Pange Lingua). He made a pilgrimage to St. Martin's shrine in Gaul and remained there the rest of his life, becoming a priest, and then Bishop of Poitiers.
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful
servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
A Poem on Easter
By Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus
The seasons blush varied with the
flowery, fair weather, and the gate of the pole lies open with greater light.
His path in the heaven raises the fire-breathing sun higher, who goes forth on
his course, and enters the waters of the ocean. Armed with rays traversing the
liquid elements, in this brief night he stretches out the day in a circle. The
brilliant firmament puts forth its clear countenance, and the bright stars show
their joy. The fruitful earth pours forth its gifts with varied increase, when
the year has well returned its vernal riches. Soft beds of violets paint the
purple plain; the meadows are green with plants, and the plant shines with its
leaves. By degrees gleaming brightness of the flowers comes forth; all the herbs
smile with their blossoms. The seed being deposited, the corn springs up far and
wide in the fields, promising to be able to overcome the hunger of the
husbandman. Having deserted its stem, the vine-shoot bewails its joys; the vine
gives water only from the source from which it is wont to give wine. The
swelling bud, rising with tender down from the back of its mother, prepares its
bosom for bringing forth. Its foliage having been torn off in the wintry season,
the verdant grove now renews its leafy shelter. Mingled together, the willow,
the fir, the hazel, the osier, the elm, the maple, the walnut, each tree
applauds, delightful with its leaves. Hence the bee, about to construct its
comb, leaving the hive, humming over the flowers, carries off honey with its
leg. The bird which, having closed its song, was dumb, sluggish with the wintry
cold, returns to its strains. Hence Philomela attunes her notes with her own
instruments, and the air becomes sweeter with the re-echoed melody.
Behold, the favour of the reviving world bears witness that all gifts have returned together with its Lord. For in honour of Christ rising triumphant after His descent to the gloomy Tartarus, the grove on every side with its leaves expresses approval, the plants with their flowers express approval. The light, the heaven, the fields, and the sea duly praise the God ascending above the stars, having crushed the laws of hell. Behold, He who was crucified reigns as God over all things, and all created objects offer prayer to their Creator. Hail, festive day, to be reverenced throughout the world, on which God has conquered hell, and gains the stars! The changes of the year and of the months, the bounteous light of the days, the splendour of the hours, all things with voice applaud. Hence, in honour of you, the wood with its foliage applauds; hence the vine, with its silent shoot, gives thanks. Hence the thickets now resound with the whisper of birds; amidst these the sparrow sings with exuberant love.
O Christ, Thou Saviour of the world, merciful Creator and Redeemer, the only offspring from the Godhead of the Father, flowing in an indescribable manner from the heart of Thy Parent, Thou self-existing Word, and powerful from the mouth of Thy Father, equal to Him, of one mind with Him, His fellow, coeval with the Father, from whom at first the world derived its origin! Thou dost suspend the firmament, Thou heapest together the soil, Thou dost pour forth the seas, by whose government all things which are fixed in their places flourish. Who seeing that the human race was plunged in the depth of misery, that Thou mightest rescue man, didst Thyself also become man: nor wert Thou willing only to be born with a body, but Thou becamest flesh, which endured to be born and to die. Thou dost undergo funeral obsequies, Thyself the author of life and framer of the world, Thou dost enter the path of death, in giving the aid of salvation. The gloomy chains of the infernal law yielded, and chaos feared to be pressed by the presence of the light. Darkness perishes, put to flight by the brightness of Christ; the think pall of eternal night falls.
But restore the promised pledge, I pray Thee, O power benign! The third day has returned; arise, my buried One; it is not becoming that Thy limbs should lie in the lowly sepulchre, nor that worthless stones should press that which is the ransom of the world. It is unworthy that a stone should shut in with a confining rock, and cover Him in whose fist all things are enclosed. Take away the linen clothes, I pray; leave the napkins in the tomb: Thou art sufficient for us, and without Thee there is nothing. Release the chained shades of the infernal prison, and recall to the upper regions whatever sinks to the lowest depths. Give back Thy face, that the world may see the light; give back the day which flees from us at Thy death.
But returning, O holy conqueror, Thou didst altogether fill the heaven! Tartarus lies depressed, nor retains its rights. The ruler of the lower regions, insatiably opening his hollow jaws, who has always been a spoiler, becomes a prey to Thee. Thou rescuest an innumerable people from the prison of death, and they follow in freedom to the place whither their leader approaches. The fierce monster in alarm vomits forth the multitude whom he had swallowed up, and the Lamb withdraws the sheep from the jaw of the wolf. Hence re-seeking the tomb from the lower regions, having resumed Thy flesh, as a warrior Thou carriest back ample trophies to the heavens. Those whom chaos held in punishment he has now restored; and those whom death might seek, a new life holds, Oh, sacred King, behold a great part of Thy triumph shines forth, when the sacred laver blesses pure souls! A host, clad in white, come forth from the bright waves, and cleanse their old fault in a new stream. The white garment also designates bright souls, and the shepherd has enjoyments from the snow-white flock. The priest Felix is added sharing in this reward, who wishes to give double talents to his Lord. Drawing those who wander in Gentile error to better things, that a beast of prey may not carry them away, He guards the fold of God. Those whom guilty Eve had before infected, He now restores, fed with abundant milk at the bosom of the Church. By cultivating rustic hearts with mild conversations, a crop is produced from a briar by the bounty of Felix. The Saxon, a fierce nation, living as it were after the manner of wild beasts, when you, O sacred One, apply a remedy, the beast of prey resembles the sheep. About to remain with you through an age with the return of a hundred-fold, you fill the barns with the produce of an abundant harvest.
May this people, free from stain, be strengthened in your arms, and may you bear to the stars a pure pledge to God. May one crown be bestowed on you from on high gained from yourself, may another flourish gained from your people.
|The Church Age, the Millennium, the
Kingship of Christ,
anticipation of His Second Coming
|gratitude, work, anticipation|
|Peter's Key, the letter "M" for "1,000,"
symbolizing Christ's Kingship, any symbol for the Church
|Trinity Sunday to the day before Advent Sunday|
The Time After Pentecost relates to the time between the Age of the Apostles and the End of the World -- it relates to now, to the Church guided by the Holy Ghost, to our sanctification.
"The Mystery of The Time After Pentecost"
from Dom Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year"
That we may thoroughly understand the meaning
and influence of the season of the liturgical year upon which we have no
entered, it is requisits for us to grasp the entire sequel of mysteries, which
holy Church has celebrated in our presence and company; we have witnessed her
services, and we have shared in them. The celebration of those mysteries was not
an empty pageant, acted for the sake of being looked at. Each one of them
brought with it a special grace, which produced in our souls the reality
signified by the rites of the liturgy. At Christmas Christ was born within us;
at Passiontide He passed on and into us His sufferings and atonements; at Easter
He communicated to us His glorious, His untrammelled life; in His Ascension He
frew us after Him, and this even to heaven's summit; in a word, as the apostle
expresses all this working, 'Christ was formed in us.'
But, in order to give solidity and permanence to the image of Christ formed within us, it was necessary that the Holy Ghost should come, that so He might increase our light, and enkindle a fire within us that should never be quenched. This divine Paraclete came down from heaven; He gave Himself to us; He wishes to take up His abode within us, and take our life of regeneration entirely into His own Hands. The liturgy of this Time After Pentecost signifies and expresses this regenerated life, which is to be spent on the model of Christ's, and under the direction of His Spirit.
Two objects here offer themselves to our consideration: the Church and the Christian soul. As to holy Church, the Bride of Christ, filled as she is with the Paraclete Spirit, Who has poured Himself forth upon her, and from that time forward is her animating principle, she is advancing onwards in her militant career, and will do so till the second coming of her Heavenly Spouse. She has within her the gifts of truth and holiness. Endowed with infallibility of faith and authority to govern, she feeds Christ's flock, sometimes enjoying liberty and peace, sometimes going through persecutions and trials. Her divine Spouse abides with her, by His grace and the efficacy of His promises, even to the end of time; she is in possession of all the favors He has bestowed upon her; and the Holy Ghost dwells with her, and in her, for ever. All this is expressed by this present portion of the liturgical year. It is one wherein we shall not meet with any of those great events which prepared and consummated the divine work; but, on the other hand, it is a season when holy Church reaps the fruits of the holiness and doctrine, which those ineffable mysteries have already produced, and will continue to produce during the course of ages. It is during this same season that we shall meet with the preparation for, and in due time, the fulfillment of, those final events which will transform our mother's militant life on earth into the triumphant one in heaven. As far, then, as regards holy Church, this is the meaning of the portion of the cycle we are commencing.
As to the faithful soul, whose life is but a compendium of that of the Church, her progress, during the period which is opened to her after the pentecostal feasts, should be in keeping with that of our common mother. The soul should live and act in imitation of Jesus, who has united Himself with her by the mysteries she has gone through; she should be governed by the Holy Spirit, whom she has received. The sublime episodes peculiar to this second portion of the year will give her an increase of light and life. She will put unity into these rays, which, though scattered in various directions, emanate from one common centre; and, advancing from brightness to brightness, she will aspire to being consummated in Him whom she now knows so well, and whom death will enable her to possess as her own. Should it not be the will of God, however, to take her as yet to Himself, she will begin a fresh year, and live over again those mysteries which she has already enjoyed in the early portion of previous liturgical cycles, after which she will find herself once more in the season that is under the direction of the Holy Ghost, till at last her God will summon her from this world, on the day and at the hour which He has appointed from all eternity.
Between the Church, then, and the soul, during the time intervening from the descent of the divine Paraclete to the consummation, there is this difference--that the Church goes through it but once, whereas the Christian soul repeats it each year. With this exception the analogy is perfect. It is our duty, therefore, to thank God for thus provide for our weakness by means of the sacred liturgy, whereby He successively renews within us those helps which enable us to attain the glorious end of our creation.
Holy Church has so arranged the order for reading the Books of Scripture during the present period, as to express the work then accomplished both in the Church herself and in the Christian soul. For the interval between Pentecost and the commencement of August, she gives us the four Books of Kings They see a prophetic epitome of the Church's history. They describe how the kingdom of Israel was founded by David, who is the type of Christ victorious over His enemies, and by Solomon, the king of peace, who builds a temple in honor of Jehovah. During the centuries comprised in the history given in those books, there is a perpetual struggle between good and evil. There are great and saintly kings, such as Asa, Ezechias, and Josias; there are wicked ones, like Manasses. A schism breaks out in Samaria; infidel nations league together against the city of God. The holy people, continually turning a deaf ear to the prophets, give themselves up to the worship of false gods, and to the vices of the heathen, till at length the justice of God destroys both temple and city of the faithlesss Jerusalem; it is an image of the destruction of this world, when faith shall be so rare, that the Son of Man, at His second coming, shall scarce find a vestige of it remaining.
During the month of August, we read the Sapiential Books, so called because they contain the teachings of divine Wisdom. This Wisdom in the Word of God, who is manifested unto men through the teachings of the Church, which, because of the assistance of the Holy Ghost permanently abiding within her, is infallible in the truth.
Supernatural truth produces holiness, which cannot exist, nor produce fruit, where truth is not. In order to express the union there is between these two, the Church reads to us, during the month of September, the books called 'hagiographic'; these are Tobias, Judith, Esther, and Job, and they show Wisdom in action.
At the end of the world the Church will have to go through combats of unusual fierceness. To keep us on the watch, she reads to us, during the month of October, the Books of Machabees; for there we have described to us the noble-heartedness of those defenders of the Law of God, for which they gloriously died; it will be the same at the last days, when power will be 'given to the beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.'
The month of November gives us the reading of the Prophets: the judments of God impending upon a world which He is compelled to punish by destruction are there announced to us. First of all, we have the terrible Ezechiel; then Daniel, who sees empire succeeding empire, till the end of all time; and finally the Minor Prophets, who for the most part foretell the divine chastisements, though the latest among them proclaim, at the same time, the near approach of the Son of God.
Such is the mystery of this portion of the liturgical cycle, which is called the Time after Pentecost. It includes also the use of green vestments, for that colour expresses the hope of the bride, who knows that she has been entrusted by her Spouse to the Holy Ghost, and that He will lead her safe to the end of her pilgrimage. St. John says all this in those few words of his Apocalypse: 'The Spirit and the bride say, Come!'
Text courtesy of Apologia