Advent Symbols and Celebrations - Part II
Advent is a time of waiting, conversion and of hope, a preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, meaning "to come to"; it refers to the coming of Christ. As with Part I, here are three more expressions of piety to prepare the way of the Lord.
As Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of our Savior, it is natural to deepen our prayer devotions. One way this is practiced is to pray a Christmas Novena during Advent. There are several forms of the Christmas Novena - pick one to your liking!
Saint Andrew Christmas Novena. Because the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) is the date upon which the season of Advent is determined, this particular novena begins on Andrew’s Feast Day and ends on Christmas Day. The following prayer is prayed 15 times a day, each day, from November 30 to December 24: Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, to hear my prayers and grant my desires. (Mention your intentions here) Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.
Standard Christmas Novena: Because the Novena is a traditionally a nine-day prayer, this novena runs from the 16th of December to the 24th of December. The shorter text version is here. The longer text version is here.
Christmas Novena with ‘O’ Antiphons: This Christmas Novena takes the form of the Liturgy of the Hours. It also incorporates the ‘O’ Antiphons also seen in the Jesse Tree. Thus, this novena is immersed in liturgical and scriptural language. “The final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great O Antiphons of Advent on the evening of December 17. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior”. You can pray it here.
The Christmas Creche
A Christmas Creche (also called a crib, nativity scene or manger) is a popular tradition everywhere. St. Francis of Assisi is said to have created the first Christmas creche in 1223 or 1224 as a “living nativity scene” in Greccio after he returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The purpose was to foster a greater devotion to Christ. His idea proved to be an inspiration around the world, as this custom has continued for more than 800 years.
Inspired by the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, the creche scene depicts the moment of Christ’s birth in a humble place surrounded by Joseph and Mary; often included are the Three Wise Men and stable animals. The creche is usually re-created as a set in the home, in churches, and often still as a Living Nativity, just as Francis of Assisi did long ago.
The Blessed Mother and Advent
The season of Advent includes “Marian” feasts. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8th, celebrates Mary’s sinlessness. Because of this, Mary was the perfect vessel for Christ, which was necessary to pave the.way for His birth. The Feast Day is so important, it is one of the Holy Days of Obligation in the liturgical year, and there is also a Novena that can be prayed.
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 is a celebration of the Our Lady to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. She left an image of herself imprinted on his cloak, which still exists intact nearly 500 years later. Because Mary’s clothing includes a black tie or girdle, it is commonly claimed that that image shows her pregnancy . Therefore she was made the Patroness of the Unborn. This narrative fits well with the season of Advent and Christ’s nativity.
Additionally, the Blessed Mother is very important in Eastern Catholicism during Advent. “In the calendars of the Oriental Churches, the period of preparation for the celebration of the manifestation (Advent) of divine salvation (Theophany) in the mysteries of Christmas-Epiphany of the Only Son of God, is markedly Marian in character. Attention is concentrated on preparation for the Lord's coming in the Deipara. For the Orientals, all Marian mysteries are Christological mysteries since they refer to the mystery of our salvation in Christ. In the Coptic rite, the Lauds of the Virgin Mary are sung in the Theotokia. Among the Syrians, Advent is referred to as the Subbara or Annunciation, so as to highlight its Marian character. The Byzantine Rite prepares for Christmas with a whole series of Marian feasts and rituals”. (Women for Faith and Family)
A Prayer for Advent
Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.