Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath is a great tradition to implement in homes during the Advent Season. These prayers accompany the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles. The prayers take just a minute, but help us focus on dedicating ourselves to Christ during this season of preparation.

Obscure in origin it is believed that the Advent Wreath may have had its beginnings in the pagan fire wheel. In Christian symbolism the wheel or wreath stands for eternity. Its use is especially fitting during Advent the season of the anticipation of the coming of our Lord.
Children love the beauty of the simple traditional ceremony. Lighting candles in an Advent Wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home. Those who participate will cherish the experience all their lives. 

The Advent Wreath Ceremony
The ceremony is simple. It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath. (The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayers following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and others appointed to light the candles.)
For blessing the wreath the following prayer is suggested:
Father: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then follows the prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week in Advent. 

I.                   The First Week
Father: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Each night the first purple candle is lighted by the youngest child of the household and is left burning during the meal. 

II.                The Second Week
Father: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Then the eldest child lights not only the first but a second purple candle. Both candles burn during the evening meal as before.)

III.             The Third Week
The joyful Sunday in Advent (known as Gaudete) is represented by rose (or pink) instead of the penitential purple color. Each night during the third week the mother of the family lights the pink as well as the two previously burned purple candles after the following prayer has been said.
Father: O Lord, we beg Thee incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (The three candles are extinguished immediately following the meal.) 

IV.             The Fourth Week
The father of the household lights all four candles in proper sequence during the fourth week after repeating the following prayer.
Father: O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy Grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Candles can be replaced as necessary during a particular Advent Season without reblessing the wreath.)
After Advent : For the Christmas Season which follows immediately after Advent, candles and ribbons can be changed to white. If you wish, the wreath itself can be freshened with new greens and decorated festively for use during the holiday period. Lighting all four white candles to burn during the principal meal each day of the Christmas Season is a customary and appropriate practice.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Solemnity of Christ the King: "he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has destroyed every sovereignty"

Archbishop Lori, in his remarks to our bishops gathered in Baltimore for their annual meeting this Fall, pointed out that the solemnity of Christ the King, which our Church celebrates on the last Sunday of October pre-1962 and this weekend in the ordinary form, originated in the struggles of the Church under totalitarianism in the 19th century, only about 70 years ago, and for that reason is very appropriate in our own day when our religious freedom is under attack.

Our bishops have been engaged for some time now in the fight for religious freedom on sveral fronts. The HHS mandate and the redefinition of marriage with attendant efforts to attack businesses and individuals who refuse to obey this legal perversion are just two of the effects of a general rejection of our right to declare Christ our King in action as well as in our beliefs.

The social kingship of Christ is non-negotiable. Our right to live our faith as witnesses in every aspect of our existence is not simply an adjunct to believing but is constitutive of believing itself. Christ is the King of the Universe precisely because He rose as God in our human flesh from the dead, establishing His absolute Lordship, which phrase is a redundancy made necessary by the lack of understanding so common today in regard to what this term means precisely.

"Lord" is title without qualification, denoting the one who demands our total fealty, allegiance, obedience and love without rival. Saint Paul used this term to describe Christ precisely because it was so well known in the Roman world to mean the complete obedience to Caesar and therefore served as an insulting provocation when used by the early Christians.

Efforts to secure and defend our religious liberty are essential because we cannot "be" Catholic without at the same time "doing" Catholic. Our proclamation of the Gospel to all of society is our mission as servants of the Kingdom of God.

Christ describes His kingship in the Gospel proclaimed at our Masses this weekend for this Solemnity:

"he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"

His kingship includes His role as judge. May we be blessed to live in love and obedience to Him in His kingdom now so as to reign with Him forever in heaven.

Christ conquers, Christ rules, Christ reigns.
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.