Advent History and Calendar

ADVENT, 2017 

A Brief History


Adventus means “coming.”  Like Epiphania (“manifestation”) & Natale (“birth”), it refers to both the Nativity & its celebration.  The New Catholic Encyclopedia says we commemorate not only an histor-ical event “but also and much more the celebration of God’s coming in the Flesh as a saving event.” 

Celebrating the Nativity as a separate event on Dec. 25 did not emerge in the primitive Church.  Just as Christians celebrated as a single act of God the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, so they observed as one event the birth of Jesus and His manifestation as the Christ in the coming of the Magi, His baptism by John in the Jordan, and His first miracle at Cana. 

Ancient Gaul (France) observed Advent as a penitential time of preparation for baptisms on the feast of Epiphany.  Rome, however, didn’t perform baptisms on Epiphany; 6th century documents record a season of preparation for our Lord’s birth leading up to Dec. 25.  Roman rites, introduced into Gaul in the 9th century, were enriched with Gallican rites and prayers.  These included an emphasis on the 2nd Coming, which is such a striking feature of our present-day observance.  

We prepare to celebrate the historical coming of Jesus and anticipate His 2nd Coming.  Advent, notes The New Catholic Encyclopedia, is “a present reality that contains AND mediates salvation.  It deepens and strengthens the awareness of Christ’s Presence in His Church and in its members.”  “Advent is not so much a preparation for Christmas or an expectation of the 2nd Coming (although, to some degree, it is both) as a kind of anticipation of the Feast of Christmas, a celebration viewing the mystery of the Incarnation in the light of its full and final achievement.”  Since the time of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, our Christian spirituality has emphasized three comings of the Christ:  in history, in the daily gift of grace, and at the end of time.                                                               


Although not as heavily penitential as Lent, Advent is a time to seek forgiveness from God and from those we’ve injured.  Prayer, fasting and sacrifice, and acts of charity help us to “prepare the way of the Lord.”  They also help us to remember the true meaning of the Lord’s birth. While other Christian communities have begun to observe Lent, even using ashes as a sign of repentance, only the Orthodox, Episcopalians, and a few Protestant communions share Advent with us Catholics.   


In many churches, poinsettias will appear the Sunday after Thanksgiving!  Unfortunately, while American Catholics have a reputation for taking Lent very seriously, Advent all too often gets lost in the pre-Christmas scramble.   The purpose of Advent is to prepare for, and enhance, our observance of Christmas.  We get out of it what we put into it.  The feast of our Lord’s birth can be richer, fuller, more meaningful IF we make Advent a time of prayer, reflection, and service.                                                                                                                                           


Making an Advent Wreath

 The “circle of fire” was a pagan ritual from cold, dark

Scandinavian winters.  Lights were placed on a large circle of greens, praying that this “wheel of fire” would move the gods to turn the world back to the warm sun light of spring.  In Christianity, a circle represents God, for, like Him, it has neither beginning nor end.  Candles represent centuries of Israel’s longing for a Messiah--3 violet & 1 rose or all white with colored ribbons.  Violet symbolizes sin, which closes our hearts to God, and repentance, which opens them to His pardon.  Rose reminds us that, even as we repent of sin, we anticipate the joy of His mercy and His Son’s birth. As we place a flame atop each candle, we honor the One Who said, “I am the Light of the world.”  We remember that the One Who scatters the darkness of sin from our lives also said, “You are the light of the world.”  Children see our wreath in church and class rooms; using one at home connects what they share at the family table and what we celebrate at the “Table of the Lord.”       

Advent Nourishment


Along with Sacred Scripture, you can read Two From Galilee (Marjorie Holmes’ novel that portrays the story of Mary and Joseph in a very down-to-earth way), The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson’s famous comedy), The Giving Tree (Shelly Silverstein), The Way to Christmas (Ruth Sawyer), The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder), The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic), Poetry for the Holidays (Nancy Larrick), The Best Gift of All (Dorothy Moder), Christmas Is a Time for Giving (Joan Anglund), The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry), The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), and The Christmas Sweater (Glenn Beck’s delightful and moving novel).  Don’t use your TV as mere background noise while doing other things.  Sit down and enjoy the many wonderful animated specials, musicals, and timeless favorites, including It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.  You’ve heard the saying, “Stop and smell the coffee.”  Likewise, if you turn on the radio or CD player, stop and listen to what the songs are actually saying! 

Blue Christmas 

            The absence of a loved one who has died can make the holiday painful, particular if it is our first Christmas without them.  On Dec. 9, at Noon, we will have a Blue Christmas Service, with hymns, Scriptures, and a reflection.  While soft music plays, you will have an opportunity to light a candle in memory of your loved one.  That’s something you can also do at home on Dec. 24 or 25. 

The St. Andrew’s Prayer  (prayed 3 times daily, Nov, 30 until Christmas) 

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born

  of the most pure Virgin Mary, at Midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold!

In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear our prayers and grant our desires

  through the merits of our Holy Savior and the prayers of His Blessed Mother.  Amen. 


This German word for “Christ Child” is used to recognize Jesus in one another. Each person in a family, a group of friends, or coworkers draws a name out of a hat.  During Advent you do little things anonymously for your Kristkindl--you might make a card or gift, say a prayer, or do an act of kindness (without him or her finding out who you are).  At a holiday gathering, you reveal yourself to your Kristkindl.   (In the secular version, the unknown giver is called a “Secret Santa.”)    

Wrap Your Activities With Prayer 

Don’t let preparations be a chore.  While writing cards, say a prayer for recipients.  (And there’s no rule that you have to “get it all done” by Dec. 24th.  The Christmas season lasts until Epiphany Sunday--Jan. 7 this year.)  Pray before shopping (and say something nice to the cashiers!)  Use the daily prayers & Scripture readings that we provide with prayers for blessing and lighting an Advent Wreath and your tree.  Wrap a gift with pretty paper & ribbons AND a prayer for the recipient.  As our Knights of Columbus remind us every year, “Keep Christ in Christmas!” 

Waiting, Watching, Yearning... 

We grumble when stores put out Christmas items in August, then we put up our trees the day after Thanksgiving and toss them on the curbside Dec. 26!  Many folks eat dinner, go to church, & open presents on Christmas Eve, then spend the 25th channel surfing or looking for batteries that still work!  Don’t cheat yourself of the 12 Days of Christmas.  Build anticipation.  Turn on outdoor lights for ½ hour during the 1st week in Dec., an hour during the 2nd week, etc.  Light them all on Dec. 24 through Jan. 7.  Offer a prayer of thanks on the 12th night.

Preparing the Manger 

Set up the stable & animals on the 1st Sun. of Advent.  Place Mary & Joseph far away, even in another room; each night a different person moves them closer to “Bethlehem” (they “arrive” on Dec. 24 where the ox and ass are waiting).  The next morning, Baby Jesus is in the manger, and shepherds & sheep have appeared!  On Christmas night, Magi begin a similar journey, arriving on Epiphany (Jan. 8 this year).  Children can learn the real meaning of Christmas by preparing the manger.  Place straw in a bowl; each time one does a good deed, he or she places a piece in the manger.  As charity toward others softens our hearts for them, so, too, acts of goodness ready our hearts for the Infant King.  On Gaudete Sunday (Dec. 17) we will bless straw for you; we also invite you to observe the old Roman custom of Bambinelli Sunday, when we bring to church the Christ Child from our crèche for a special blessing.   

Christmas Wafers 

This delightful Polish custom has spread throughout the Church.  An image of the Nativity is stamped on rectangular pieces of think flat bread, similar to that used for Communion wafers.  (See them on display on our bulletin boards.)  On the family table on Christmas Eve is a tray with hay, covered by a white napkin, atop of which are oplatki (o-PWAT-key).  There may also be lighted candles (proclaiming Christ the Light of the World), a vase with sheaves of wheat (proclaiming Christ the Bread of Life), and the image of the Christ Child.  An adult shares a piece of oplatek (o-PWAH-tek) with each person.  Each takes a fraction from pieces held by others, sharing greetings of peace & forgiveness.  (Some dip it into honey, as a sign of the sweet love we share, before consuming.)  At the meal that follows, it is customary to set an extra place for the “uninvited guest,” in case our Lord shows up in the disguise of a stranger!  Polish wafers are available in our parish office.  

Pictures With the Big Guy in Red!                                                                                                                                                                                           

On Sunday, December 17, our Knights of Columbus will host a breakfast, after the 8:30 and 10:30 masses.  You can have a photo taken with Jolly Old St. Nick.  Years from now you will be able to embarrass your son or daughter by showing the picture to his or her date before they escape to their senior prom! 

Darkness Into Light

 Darkness into Light is an original enactment of the Nativity at 7 pm on Dec. 9 in the Parish Life Center.  With John the Baptist as the narrator, we relive with words, song, and costumed beauty the story of our Savior’s birth.   




Advent Calendar

3           Psalm 55: 17-19 

          Pray for an enemy, or do

          something to make peace. 


 4               Isaiah 45: 8 

           Fast today for justice or

           pray for the victimized. 


 5            James 5: 19-20 

           Call or write to someone

           you haven’t heard from. 


   6       Matthew 11: 28-30 

           Give yourself the gift of

           even a few minutes of    silence.


   7         Hebrews 4: 14-16 

             Do an act of kindness or

              pray for someone. 


   8          Psalm 89: 47-53 

             Think of someone who

             brings you closer to God. 


   9        Romans 8: 18-21 

             Give a compliment or a

             word of encouragement. 


10         Ephesians 5: 8-20


          What gift would you like

           from the Lord this year? 


 11       Matthew 25: 31-40 

            Share your time or talent

            with someone today. 


 12          James 1: 21-25 

            Examine your conscience;

            make an act of contrition.    


 13          Sirach 2: 14-18 

     Share a Scripture reading

            with someone. 


 14   I Corinthians 11: 23-26 

             Think of those who made

              past Christmases special. 


 15         Galatians 5: 13-15 

             Share a decoration with

             one who may be lonely.


 16             Isaiah 40: 3-5 

             Give away something

              you do not need.


 17                Psalm 98 

          Listen carefully to words

          of a favorite carol or hymn. 


 18           Isaiah 57: 14-19 

           Pray to our Blessed

           Mother, Mary.


 19           I John: 14-19 

           Make a red heart for your

           tree or a friend.


20         I Corinthians 2: 6-10 

           Watch a good TV special

           or prepare your manger.


21              John 14: 1-3 

              Pray for those who have

               passed away. 


22           Isaiah 35: 1-10 

              Surprise someone with a

              kind word or deed. 


23           Titus 2: 11-14 

             Put a candle in a window

             for those far from home.


 24           Luke 2: 1-20 

          Invite a neighbor or a

          friend to Mass. 


25          Isaiah 11: 6-9 

           Pray for the unborn. 



                                               WEEK ONE……LONGING

                                                                                A feeling of sadness and longing,

                                                                                       That is not akin to pain,

                                                                                   And resembles sorrow only

                                                                                       As the mist resembles rain.


                                                                                                                                    --William Wadsworth Longfellow



                                                                                    Blessing of an Advent Wreath  


                                                                                                           Lord our God,

                                                                          we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ:

                                                                          He is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,

                                                                          He is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,

                                                                          He is the Savior of every nation.

                                                                        Lord God, let Your blessing come upon us

                                                                           as we light the candles of this wreath.

                                                                        May the wreath and its light be a sign

                                                                              of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.

                                                                        May He come quickly and not delay.

                                                                     We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 



                                                                          Prayer for Lighting the Wreath



                                                              we long for the coming of Your Son.

                                                             May He come in glory                                                                                                                          

                                                           to scatter the darkness of sin for ever.

                                                         We ask this thru Christ our Lord.  Amen.


                                                         Blue Christmas, Sat., Noon

                                                         Confessions Saturday 1:30-3:30 pm

                                                         Youth penance (7 priests, Sun., 2 pm

                                                    WEEK TWO… …PREPARING

                                                                                    Christ, the Light of all lights,

                                                                                     follows John, the lamp

                                                                                     that goes before Him.

                                                                                   The Word of God follows the voice  

                                                                                           in the wilderness;

                                                                                    the Bridegroom follows

                                                                                     the Bridegroom’s friend,

                                                                                     who prepares a worthy people

                                                                                            for the Lord

                                                                                     by cleansing them by water

                                                                                     in preparation for the Holy Spirit.


                                                                                                                --St. Gregory Nazianzen 


                                                                                  Lighting the Wreath


                                                               we prepare for the coming of Your Son.

                                                             May our hearts be ready

                                                                          to receive Him  when he comes

                                                                          as God from God

                                                                         and Light from Light.                                

                                                              We ask this thru Christ our Lord. Amen.



                                                                   WEEK THREE……ANTICIPATING

                                                                       The end of the ages is already with us.  The

                                                                          renewal of the world has been established

                                                                          and cannot be revoked.  In our era it is in a

                                                                          true sense anticipated: the Church on earth

                                                                          is already sealed by genuine, if  imperfect,

                                                                         holiness.  Yet, until a new heaven and a

                                                                           new  earth are built as the dwelling place of

                                                                         justice, the Pilgrim Church, in its sacraments

                                                                         and institutions belonging to this world of

                                                                         time, bears the likeness of this passing world. 

                                                                         It lives in the midst of a creation still groan-

                                                                           ing and in travail as it waits for the sons of

                                                                         God to be revealed in glory.


                                                                               --Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council



                                                                                        Lighting the Wreath



                                                                 we anticipate the coming of Your Son.

                                                                  May we joyfully await

                                                                 the dawn of His coming.

                                                               We ask this thru Christ our Lord.          Amen.


                                                                            WEEK FOUR……WELCOMING

                                                                                   Lighting the Wreath


                                                                                 Father, we welcome the Coming of Your Son.

                                                                                  May the light of faith open our hearts

                                                                                    to receive Him when He comes.

                                                                                  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.                    



                                                                                               Blessing the Tree                                                                                                 

                                                                         Father of Creation,

                                                                             beneath the cold, grey sky

                                                                             nature sleeps in death,

                                                                             under the white blanket of winter time.

                                                                          But the noble evergreen rises

                                                                             from the frozen earth,

                                                                                in testimony to the promise of eternal life.

                                                                           Bless this family Christmas tree.

                                                                            As we gather around it with those we love,

                                                                               may it remind us of the life You offer us

                                                                               through the Incarnation of Your Son,

                                                                                         Who is Lord, for ever and ever.  Amen.


                                                                                       Blessing the Crèche


                                                                           Father, this is the night (day)

                                                                          we have longed to see,

                                                                               the moment for which we have prepared.

                                                                          As we place the Image of the Christ Child

                                                                             in this manger scene,

                                                                             we welcome Him also

                                                                             into the crib of our hearts.

                                                                            As we look upon this Image of the Holy Family

                                                                             in Bethlehem,

                                                                             may we rejoice in the birth of the Christ

                                                                             and anticipate His coming in eternity.

                                                                            We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen