The Southern Cross : December 09
Page 12 December 2009 The Southern Cross www.adelaide.catholic.org.au pastoral In our continuing series on issues of worship, SR ILSA NEICINIEKS RSM, outlines the symbolism and meaning of Advent and ways of putting Christ back into Christmas. Advent in Australia can tend to be overlooked or at best be ver y shor t-lived, given that secular Christmas decorations are displayed from October onwards and c a rols are played in our shops long before Christmas Day. Advent was first celebrated in Spain and Gaul in the late 5th century for up to six weeks in some places, and by the time it was adopted in Rome it was reduced to four: the first two weeks focussing on preparing for the second coming of Christ, and December 17 to December 25 focussing on his bir th. Adolf Adam, a noted liturgist says: "Advent is not primarily a season of penance in preparation for the judgement of the re t u rning Lord, but a festive commemoration of the i n c a r nation and, on the basis of the incarnation, a devout and joyous expectation of the parousia" (second coming). Advent there f o r e does not have the same penitential focus as Lent even though it is a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. Advent also i n t roduces a new liturgical year. How can we honour the preparatory character of this season more deliberately in our liturgies? The most obvious symbol is the Advent wreath even though it is not part of the Advent liturgies. If used, it should be blessed on the First Sunday of Advent and thereafter the candles should be lit to correspond with the par t i c u l a r Sunday either before Mass or before the opening prayer with no additional rites or prayers. The colour for Advent is violet, (not Lenten purple) though other related shades such as blue and gre y could also be incorporated in any church drapes or banners. It is good for parishes to have a repertoire of Advent songs to be sung every year, as we do with Christmas carols.ThehymnbookGatherAustralia hasa number of Advent songs. One well-known hymn is O Come O Come E m m a nu e l (originating in the 12th centur y) and especially appropriate after December 17 when the c h u r ch proclaims the O antiphons relating to Christ. However, with seven verses to choose from,it could be sung every Sunday of Advent as an entrance hymn, using diff e r ent combinations of verses. The Canticle of Zachary is also an Advent hymn since it sings of John the Baptist as Christ's herald. Another way of counterbalancing the commerc i a l i s a t i o n of Christmas would be to offer evening prayer in the parish church on the Sundays of Advent. The celebration of Christmas is second only to the annual celebration of Easter. The earliest re c o rd of Christmas in the Roman liturgy is from the fourt h century. In the West the date has always been December 25. In the East the birth of Christ was at first celebrated on Januar y 6 as par t of the feast of Epiphany (meaning "manifestation"). The West soon adopted this day as the coming of the Magi (symbolising Christ's manifestation to the Gentiles) while the East adopted December 25 as their Christmas, like the We s t . The four Masses of Christmas Day each have their own sets of readings. For pastoral reasons, it is permitted at the Vigil Mass (often a "family Mass" in our parishes), to hear the beautiful Christmas gospel set for Midnight Mass, rather than the account of Jesus' genealogy. Cribs are a beautiful reminder of Christ's first coming but they are not par t of the Christmas liturg y . The re a l p res ence of Christ at Mass is in the people gathered, in the priest, in the word proclaimed, and in the gifts of b read and wine. The Christmas crib should in no way compete with these sacramental signs of Christ's p res ence. It should be away from the altar in an are a l a rge enough to allow families to gather. For the commercial world, Christmas ends on D e c e m b e r 25, however the Church celebrates Christmas up to the Baptism of Jesus -- which in 2010, falls on January 10. So don't be in a hurr y to take down the Christmas decorations! As we "wait in joyful hope" during Advent for Jesus to come into our lives even more deliberately this Christmas, maybe we could resolve to do something extrafor someonenearorfar.The wordsofStCaesarius of Arles are as true today as they were in the 6th century: "Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee, but in vain until he is born in me." Visitwww.adelaide.catholic.org.au /sites/OfficeforWorship/ The real meaning of Advent and Christmas Voice of youth Young people throughout the diocese were given the o p p o r tunity to express their hopes and desires for the future of the Church in an Open Space Foru m held in October. The forum was conducted by the Office for Youth and Young Adults as part of the Leap Ahead progr a m which is looking at the future of the Church at the parish level. According to youth co-ordinator Sarah M o f fatt, it was a wonderful way for young people to e x p ress their views about how the Church could better ser ve the 18-35 age gro u p . "The target audience was young people around the dioceses who are somewhat engaged in youth minis t r y," Sarah explained. Some of the topics c o v e red included social justice, working with young people on the fringes, the evangelisation and re a l engagement of young people, ecumenism, the e n v i ronmen t, Eucharist and leadership. "It was all about ways of creating a welcoming churc h for all people, especially young people," she said. To fur ther give the youth of the church a voice, a Council for Ministr y for Young People is being established. The council will develop strategies and make recommendations on ways of involving young people in the Church in both the shor t and long term . Members of the council will be appointed by A r chbishop Philip Wilson and will re p res ent a bro a d range of skills and experience from throughout the a rchdiocese. It is expected recommendations will be made to the Church leadership team after 12 months. Besides being involved in the establishment of the council, the Office for Youth and Young Adults will be busy with several projects planned during 2010. It will continue to organise the successful monthly D e a n e r y Youth Gatherings and will run several life skills workshops covering topics such as money and de m o c r a c y. In addition, it will conduct Leadership Capacity Builders and Student Leadership days and be involved with several social justice and ser v i c e initiatives. Sarah (pictured above) said one of the major events would be a Youth Forum, which will be a "major vehicle for our office to suppor t young people in their action and Christian leadership".