All posts tagged: Advent

Festive Silence

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a noisy time amid the constant din of advertisements, Christmas music, and planning for the holidays. In this atmosphere it can be difficult to quiet our souls in preparation for the coming of the Christ child. An ascetic plunge into silent preparation this Advent may seem like the only alternative to cranking the Christmas tunes to get in the spirit of the season. But perhaps there is a way in which a festive silence is necessary to suppress the noise occupying our spirit. This may be the silence we need to prepare to enter more fully into the festival of Christmas when it comes. This silence does not need to be thought of as a sort of Lenten “music fast,” but rather as a silence that encompasses the joyful hope of the coming of Emmanuel. Then, at Christmas, when God comes to dwell with us (truly a time for the festival to begin) we are prepared to receive him. Allowing God’s indwelling in our lives requires radical openness …

The Irrational Season

This is the irrational season when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason there’d have been no room for the child. —Madeleine L’Engle, “After the Annunciation”   A colorful catalyst to the fifth century Christological controversies of Asia Minor was one Proclus of Constantinople, whose sermons on the cult of the Virgin in Constantinople apparently riled up Nestorius, who balked at going so far as to name Mary Theotokos. Proclus’ homilies are bold, beautiful celebrations of Mary’s status in salvation history, richly textured with lyrical metaphors and poetic hagiography. His “Homily One,” which was delivered with Nestorius in attendance, was written for a Marian feast during the Nativity cycle. Traditionally, the time leading up to Christmas has been a time for Marian reflection. Although key Marian feast days still bookend December 25 (Immaculate Conception on the 8th, and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st), Marian devotion is not a hallmark of most popular Advent preparations. Before Paul VI moved the great feast of Mary the Mother of …

The Light in Darkness

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well …

Advent Eschatology

Oh I’d be waiting with quiet fasting, Anticipating A joy more lasting. —Madeleine L’Engle, “The Birth of Wonder” Advent—like Lent—is a liturgical period when we mark time according to what is still hidden. The Easter Hope is shrouded in sin and suffering, it has not yet broken open the world in Resurrection; the Christmas Hope of Christ’s glory is shrouded in the womb of the Virgin, it has not yet breached into the waking world of man. But Advent—unlike Lent—is not a season of penitential sorrow. Rather, Advent is a period of deep anticipation of the lasting joy that is coming into the world. To keep Advent is not to pretend, in a facile suspension of belief, that Christ has not been incarnated, that his great Nativity never occurred. Rather, to keep Advent is to walk in liturgical solidarity with all humanity’s forebears who lived in the pre-Incarnation world and to commemorate their anticipation of a Savior. As we walk with them along their journey of anticipation, we sense that we ourselves are a people …

Catholic Conversations: What Does Advent Mean to You?

Welcome to our new series, Catholic Conversations! With this first installment we are pleased to kick off a regular feature that will engage a varied group of Catholic voices around one question about Catholic life and practice.  What does Advent mean to you? Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores, S.T.D. Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas Mostly it means I am running out of time. Most concretely this happens when I realize I want to get thoughtful presents for my nieces and nephews. I have a few weeks. But the time runs out, so I end up depending on Amazon expedited shipping to get me out of a jam. How superficial you say! Maybe, but giving a gift is noble in itself, and rightly a Christmas thing; yet we postpone the opportunities. On another level (analogously for the theologically minded): I know I am supposed to prepare in some way to be able to celebrate the mysteries of Christmas. Christmas is like the liturgical road-block that reminds us we have to recover the heart of a child …

Advent and Discernment

The Vocation of Discernment It strikes me how frequently opportunities for discernment become moments of crisis in life. As an undergraduate in my senior year, the impending future after graduation is a popular topic of discussion amongst my friends and classmates. The various dimensions of how life will look after graduation have been coming together like the pieces of a puzzle for the past four years. Yet for many seniors, a few pieces of that puzzle have yet to be found—the image of the future is incomplete. When we realize that we cannot gaze at our future selves with clarity, a sense of urgency and anxiety can set in. This often seems like the appropriate time to employ a spirit of discernment by asking God what he wants us to do with our lives and how we can proceed forward. The process of discernment involves not only listening for the words of Jesus, “Come, follow me” (Mt 1:7; Mk 4:19), but also preparing to go where he beckons. Disposing ourselves to hearing these words often …

Advent Fun and Festivity: St. Lucy’s Day

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Lucy, a third-century Sicilian girl who pledged her virginity to Christ and endured a martyr’s death when she refused to renounce her faith. Numerous versions of St. Lucy’s martyrdom are told: one version says that she miraculously became unmovable when a group of soldiers tried to drag her off to a brothel in order to violate her virginity. Another version relates that, when even a team of oxen couldn’t move Lucy, soldiers piled kindling around her and attempted to set it ablaze, but the wood could not be lit. Still another version states that the soldiers gouged out her eyes before beheading her (hence her symbol of eyes on a plate and her patronage of those suffering from blindness or other eye ailments). Of course, these varied versions are more the stuff of legend than of fact; however, at their core, they all present us with the witness of a courageous young woman who chose to suffer and die rather than betray her beloved spouse, Jesus. In many …

The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Season of Advent

For several Christian people throughout the world, especially Mexican and Mexican-American Christians, December 12, of course, is the celebration of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. The feast commemorates her December 9–12, 1531 appearances to St. Juan Diego, the Náhuatl-Aztec who had recently converted to Christianity, whose own tilma or cloak bore—and continues to bear—the miraculous imprint of her image from when “the desert rejoiced and blossomed” (Is 35:1) at Mt. Tepeyac with Castillian roses blooming in December: the image of the Brown Virgin (La Morenita), the indigenous mestiza clothed with the sun and wearing the cinta, the band of pregnancy, standing on the moon, head bowed and hands folded in prayer, and born aloft by an angel of the Lord. I would like to suggest that the Virgin of Guadalupe belongs in a particular way to our Advent preparations because, like Mary herself in her great New Testament hymn of God’s praise, the Magnificat, she proclaims to us the Gospel, the Good News of our salvation in Christ, the Good News of God who scatters the proud, exalts the lowly, …

To Stay on Target: The Immaculate Conception

On Thursday, March 25, 1858, standing in the Grotto of Massabielle, Lourdes, Our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. This self-revelation, four years after the proclamation of the dogma of this mystery of our faith, belongs to the core of her message to St. Bernadette and is unique compared to other apparitions. As the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary resembles and proclaims God’s authentic, i.e. immaculate, concept of the human person created in his image and likeness. To say it differently: in Mary’s person radiates forth the authentic blueprint that God designed for each of his children. It follows that she is the ideal exception and we are the unfortunate rule of God’s wish for us! The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrated on December 8 honors Our Lady as the personification of the re-created order in Christ. Having been pre-redeemed and fully redeemed, Mary’s spiritual wealth constitutes that dimension of her being which is veiled to the outside and transcends time and matter. In its depth it is fully known only to God. …

Review: “O Emmanuel” by J.J. Wright

An album of Advent and Christmas music incorporating chant, hymnody, and jazz, performed by a children’s choir, a quartet of adult singers, traditional chamber instruments, and a jazz ensemble. On paper (or on screen), this combination is perhaps more suggestive of avant-garde performance art than reverent sacred music. But the new album O Emmanuel brings this unlikely ensemble together in a spiritually edifying and musically thrilling way. Featuring music written and performed by Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright (along with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and Fifth House Ensemble), O Emmanuel is an exciting demonstration of the ways in which sacred music can bring together seemingly disparate styles not only from the Church’s long musical tradition but also from more recent developments in Western music, as Wright describes here in his interview with Church Life Journal. Like the Advent season itself, O Emmanuel is full of surprises. The album begins with “Gabriel’s Message,” an Advent hymn narrating the Annunciation event that deserves to be much more broadly known than it is. Here, Wright’s …