Posted tagged ‘Advent wreath’

Advent: A Time of Preparation … and Joy

December 1, 2008

christmas_decoration_21Yesterday was the start of Advent. It was made even more special because we welcomed catechumens and candidates into the Catechumenate. It is hard for me to believe that a whole year has gone by since I also went through this process but, indeed, it has.

So, what is Advent? It marks the beginning of the ecclesiastical year in the western churches. During this time we prepare ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming. Remembering his coming should always remind us that he is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead– as the Creed we recite every week tells us.

christmas21We don’t know, exactly, when the celebration of Advent began. The feast of the Nativity of the Lord did not begin until the 4th century, so we know it didn’t start before then. In the following centuries the period of preparation for that feast began at various times in November and was not settled until the sixth century (other accounts place it later).

There are many traditions associated with Advent. The Advent calendar is one. While the commercial ones we see are often aimed at children, this was not always the case. The calendar has its origins in the 19th century and was developed by German Lutherans. Not every such calendar is made of cardboard. The city of Gengenbach, Germany, on the edge of the Black Forest, turns its city hall into a giant calendar by decorating the 24 windows on its facade to resemble the windows on a calendar. Needless to say, it draws thousands of visitors every year.

Gegenbach City Hall decked out for Advent

Gegenbach City Hall decked out for Advent

 Of course, there are also Advent calendars to be found online. EWTN, for example, offers one, as does the St. Margaret Mary parish (Naperville, Illinois). Theirs is fun because there is a window to be opened each day and you can’t skip ahead! Another really nice one is offered by the University of Dayton’s Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute. This is one I was very glad to have discovered because the information about Mary is simply wonderful. As a former Protestant I struggled to understand the Catholic view of Mary and to free myself of the misunderstanding that Protestants often have about her role in Catholic doctrine. 

Beliefnet  offers a very nice calendar. Each day is an adventure of sorts. The day opens with a theme and then there are links to more information on that theme. Today’s theme is angels. If you look at Dec. 1, you will  have an opportunity to  hear Thomas Merton’s poem Advent. Don’t know who Thomas Merton is? This is someone you probably will want to learn about. Like many others online, this calendar does not allow you to peek ahead.

Artcyclopedia has a calendar that is dated 2004 but it is a perpetual calendar. Its theme is the Nativity in Renaissance Art. Each day is a thumbnail of the art work that will be revealed when you click on it.

We lit the first candle of the Advent wreath yesterday. Here again, the origin of this tradition is not well known. It may have had pagan Germanic roots. Whatever the case may be, Christians had adopted it by the Middle Ages. If you would like to know more, there is a very nice article about the meaning of the wreath and the candles to be found at the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Here is a lovely example:











Here is another example from a church in England:











In the slightly reworked opening of a well-known song:

 This is the season that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!