Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent and the New Roman Missal

 Today is the First Sunday of Advent in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican calendars. Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30 (the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle) and ends on Christmas Eve, 24 December.  If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent.

The word 'advent' is Latin for 'a coming or arrival' so Christians look on Advent as a season of preparation.  It is a time to get ready for the birth of Jesus Christ.

Practicing Christians do special things to mark the holy purposes of the Advent season and many churches have weekly services with a lot of praise, joy and song.During the Advent season many families start making their own creche or manger scene. It has been said that St Francis of Assisi popularized the creche. 

The Advent wreath is part of the long-standing tradition but the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth. 

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection ( Thanks to Fr  William Saunders - The History of the Advent Wreath - Arlington Catholic Herald).

The four candles that decorate the wreath represent the four weeks of Advent. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during this season and the rose candle is lit on the third Sunday marking the the midpoint of Advent. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world.
The light signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles which will be lit throughout Christmas season. 

Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide Christians with a way to augment the special preparation for Christmas.  The tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. 
For those of you celebrating this wonderful time of 'waiting' I wish you a joyful Advent season.
Sunday 27 November 2011 marks a huge step in the Roman Catholic Church with the advent of the New Missal.  Not all Catholics are happy with this as they see it as a retrograde step and going against Vatican II.  From today Catholic clergy, religious and laity will have no choice other than to use the translation of the Roman Missal  for Mass.  Many Catholics around the world have been questioning the merits  of the New Translation, some saying it is 'clumsy' whilst others are welcoming the new word-for-word  translation.    The new Missal is not changing anything except the words we have used for the last forty years.  There is new formality.  The Mass will not look different but will sound different.  In the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, there have been training sessions for Mass celebrants and seminars for the laity.  Missal cards will be used by congregations until such time that people have familiarized themselves with the New Translation.  The thinking behind the new translation in the Third Roman Missal is that there will be a new appreciation for a sacrament that is the summit of a Catholic's experience.  There will also be a change in some of the music

This actually takes me back to a time when I had to get used to the Mass, post Vatican II being celebrated in English as I was  brought up on the Latin Mass.  Personally I see it as  a retrograde step but I'm sure that many traditionalists are delighted that the Church has seen fit to return to the formality that once was.


  1. Happy Advent to you, too!

    I was a pre-teen the last time the Missal changed, and remember the "old people" grumbling about the changes. I've resolved not to be one of them this time, and am keeping an open mind about the differences.

  2. Thank you Kathy. I was in my early 20s. They do of course still have Latin Masses in the UK for those who never accepted the change - and there are those that didn't. I'm sure that Latin Masses are the norm in other countries as well.

    On of my concerns is that the youth of today won't see it as a positive and they are the Church.

    Another challenge I have is the change re females on the altar during a Latin Mass. There won't be any! Jesus surrounded himself with women during his ministry and as a Catholic priest said to me a few weeks ago 'if it wasn't for women, there wouldn't be a Church today'.

  3. Well I have just come home from Mass and truth be told, I don't understand what all the fuss is about!! Very little has changed except for the odd response and the recitation of the I Confess and the Creed, both of which are the original versions I learned whilst growing up!

  4. Such a beautiful Advent wreath in your photo. This is such a wonderful time of year.
    I remember the Latin masses, too. They were beautiful to hear, even though I couldn't understand them.


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