All posts tagged: Advent

The Church Life Journal “Sounds of Advent” Spotify Playlist

One of the greatest challenges of celebrating Advent is the fact that Christmas music seems to be everywhere beginning the day after Thanksgiving. It’s on the radio, in the department stores, in television commercials, you name it. As a musician, I’m often asked for Advent music recommendations, so this year, I’ve taken advantage of modern technology and curated an Advent playlist through Spotify which is by no means exhaustive, since it’s impossible to include everything. Instead, this is a sampling which I hope will inspire your own exploration of the music of this beautiful season of waiting in joyful hope. Below the playlist are “liner notes” for anyone curious about why a particular piece was included, which may be especially interesting with regard to pieces chosen for their relevance to a particular feast day. May this music create a space within your heart where Jesus may find a home on Christmas day. Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) The Westminster Choir Christmas with the Westminster Choir “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is, without doubt, the …

The Advent Apocalypse

Our parishes are too safe. They gather together like-minded citizens whose children go to the same schools, whose parents root for the same football team and work in similar fields. We form insular communities that sing music praising not the triune God who comes to interrupt history through the power of the cross, but music reminding the Creator of the universe how lucky God is to have a people like us as his own. The Church’s liturgy in these instances functions not as a counter-polis but as a replication of social structures that reduce the reign of God to a country club. We naively sing (accompanied by an upbeat tambourine), “Send down the fire of your justice,” unaware that this fire may be for us. And we do so in the name of an evangelization that is supposed to be palatable for a generation that longs not for prophetic discourse but therapeutic memoirs. Advent is the season in which our parishes should once again become dangerous spaces. The coming of Christ that we prepare for …

Yes, Advent Is a Time of Asceticism

We all know that Advent means arrival and preparation. I would invite you to meditate with me about the prerequisites of the term and implications we hardly ever acknowledge. On November 8, the Church remembered Blessed Duns Scotus (d. 1308), one of the greatest thinkers she has ever produced. One of his key ideas was that God’s perfect intellect is mirrored in the limitless openness and receptivity of the human mind. For the Franciscan, such receptiveness was a sign of human dignity: humans receive those truths they cannot achieve by their own powers. This sounds complicated but leads to some simple conclusions: all true knowledge comes from an encounter and arises from the receptivity of our mind and heart (intellectus passibilis). If we apply Scotus’s insight to Advent, we might realize that our receptivity to the Incarnate Word is impeded by something in our lives and that perhaps we do not desire a real encounter with the real God but rather one with our self-constructed god. The root for this seems to lie at the …

Advent and the Angelus

One of the most memorable lessons you learn in the Master of Arts in theology program at the University of Notre Dame is: lex orandi, lex credendi. “The law of praying is the law of believing” This was such a novel idea for me as student years ago. For my entire life as a Catholic and then as a religion teacher, I had thought of the study of theology simply as the exploration of beliefs. Prayer and worship just seemed like something extra or something expressive of what we believed. The principle of lex orandi, lex credendi helped me gain a new appreciation of how and what we pray together in the liturgy and in Catholic devotions. As we close this season of Advent, it is worth reflecting on how much balance we placed on our preparation for Christmas in both prayer and belief. In recent years I have unfortunately found myself focusing more on Advent beliefs than Advent prayers. Working for a Catholic publisher, I’ve had many Advent books and devotionals to read during the season. …

Waiting in the Mystery of Hope

What surprises me, says God, is hope. —Charles Péguy, The Portal to the Mystery of Hope Every Advent I sit around a small prayer table with four-year-olds and contemplate the great mystery of messianic hope announced by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We wonder aloud what it is like to wait and long for the light. We wonder how the people of Israel felt when they heard the words of the prophet. We wonder what it is like to be in the dark and to see a great, bursting light. We wonder as we wander around the words of Scripture. Every so often the small voice of a child will chime a single word: “hope.” No lengthy explanation. No theological treatise. No empty platitudes. Small children do not feel the need to give an account of themselves. Just simple, unadorned, astonishing, little, expectant, “hope.” Hope is a strange thing, gathering in time and memory—memory of the past and, oddly, remembering into the …

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 …