Friday, December 5, 2014

SHOULD WE MAKE MORE OUT OF THE ADVENT WREATHE THAN IS NECESSARY?


The Advent Wreath is a non-Catholic, Lutheran devotion adopted and adapted by Catholics and other Christians. In essence it has become a liturgical decoration.

The Catholic Book of Blessings has a blessing for an Advent Wreath used in Church or at home. The Book suggests that the wreath be blessed the First Sunday of Advent but during the Universal Prayer following the Creed. This seems to be quite odd since normally the first candle is lighted prior to the Mass or during the Introductory Rite of the Mass. As a prelude to Mass, it would be seen merely as the popular devotion it is. Blessing it during Mass elevates this non-liturgical popular devotion to a status it does not deserve, similar to praying a Decade of the Rosary somewhere during Mass because it seems like a nice thing to do.

In the 1980's we really cool liturgists had really cool, creative ideas about the Advent Wreath and kind of made the Blessing of the Advent Wreath during Mass into "The Liturgy of the Advent Wreath." We would have a family each week carry in the candle that would be inserted into the wreathe and one of the family members would read a reflection and blessing for that candle that often sounded like a pious little mini sermon. Of Course this entire action was interpersed with verses of a Advent song of some kind, God Spell's (or was it Jesus Christ Superstar?) "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" often was sung over and over and over and over again.

At Saint Joseph we have had differing positions for the Advent Wreath. At one time in my illustrious career I suggested it be placed on the old high altar with four of the tall candlesticks acting as the candles which are metal tubes with real beeswax inserts that are sprung up to use most of the candle without it looking like the candle was at the end. The tubes were wrapped in appropriate Advent colors of violet and rose.  (Many of the same people who love the Advent wreath as a liturgical item love to see candles consumed during Mass as liturgical thing pointing to Jesus being consumed. Oh brother! )

This position of the wreath seemed a bit overpowering. Now it is a more modest liturgical decoration placed near the ambo.

Today we simply light the candle before Mass and make no other gestures or comments about it, just as we light the other candles at Mass and make no fuss over these. Although leave it to a liturgist to make the lighting of the altar candles into some kind of liturgy with prayers and gestures. I wonder if this has been done anywhere in the last 50 years?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century.[7] However, it is not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.[8]
Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century.[9]

 During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.[10] Professor Haemig's research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.

In Medieval times advent was a fast during which people's thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ; but in modern times it has been seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context Advent Wreath serves as a reminder of the approach of the feast.
More recently, some Eastern Orthodox families have adopted an Advent wreath with six candles symbolizing the longer Christmas fast in Orthodox tradition, which corresponds to Advent in Western Christianity.[11]

28 comments:

Gerry Davila said...

I suppose one could use the shorter rite in the Book of Blessings before Mass begins on the 1st Sunday if Advent. The introduction to the Order for the Blessing of an Advent Wreath does say that when the Advent Wreath is used in the 2nd and succeeding Sundays, the lighting takes place before Mass begins or immediately before the Collect.

Anthony said...

Everyone should Google 'Fr.Stephen Heiner'

Pater Ignotus said...

As the primary decorative symbol of the Advent season, the candles/wreath should be visible to all. The blessing speaks of the light of the candles and the light of Christ for which we wait.

Blessing the wreath/candles is done on the first Sunday. On subsequent Sundays the candles are lit before mass.

Using the old altar can give this symbol the prominence it may not have if placed in other areas of the sanctuary. I have always liked the idea of a LARGE wreath suspended above the congregation, but have not been able to try it out - yet!

Henry said...

"Although leave it to a liturgist to make the lighting of the altar candles into some kind of liturgy with prayers and gestures."

One more example showing that nothing, absolutely nothing, should be left to a "liturgist". Just do the red and say the black.

JBS said...

Perhaps three performers wearing violet and one wearing rose could prance around the nave throughout the Mass whilst holding torches. If only I had thought of that a week ago. Drat.

Bee said...

JBS: "Perhaps three performers wearing violet and one wearing rose could prance around the nave throughout the Mass whilst holding torches. If only I had thought of that a week ago. Drat."

LOL! As I read this I envisioned the spectacle, and started laughing really hard. But, oh my, please, don't give them any ideas.

I really don't care for the whole Advent wreath thing, and don't ever remember having any sort of that tradition in my youth, either at home or in school. It never really appealed to me so I wouldn't be sorry if it went away completely.

Gene said...

JBS, I know…a Maypole! Yes, that's it!! A Maypole! We could get Julie Andrews to sing that naughty little song about May from Camelot.

John Nolan said...

A recent innovation, relatively harmless, but with no liturgical significance whatsoever. There is no blessing for it in my Rituale Romanum, which has emendations up to 1960, and even has a blessing for typewriters.

'The primary decorative symbol of the Advent season' according to Pater Ignotus. Who has made it so? Where is the authority, written or otherwise?

Anonymous said...

We should all be sensitive to the fact that our charming host is the former diocesan liturgist. It is said..."once a liturgist, always a liturgist".

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa--but I'm not really a trained liturgist, it comes naturally! :)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

And yes, I'm a has been in so many ways, but this is not always a bad thing!

Pater Ignotus said...

John - The Advent wreath is, de facto, the primary symbol of the Advent season in every church I have attended in every Advent season I can recall.

Although it is a visual change, the switch to violet vestments isn't what I would consider a "decorative" symbol.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia via New Advent: "It cannot be determined with any degree of certainty when the celebration of Advent was first introduced into the Church. The preparation for the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord was not held before the feast itself existed, and of this we find no evidence before the end of the fourth century, when, according to Duchesne [Christian Worship (London, 1904), 260], it was celebrated throughout the whole Church, by some on 25 December, by others on 6 January. Of such a preparation we read in the Acts of a synod held at Saragossa in 380, whose fourth canon prescribes that from the seventeenth of December to the feast of the Epiphany no one should be permitted to absent himself from church. We have two homilies of St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin (415-466), entitled "In Adventu Domini", but he makes no reference to a special time. The title may be the addition of a copyist. There are some homilies extant, most likely of St. Caesarius, Bishop of Arles (502-542), in which we find mention of a preparation before the birthday of Christ; still, to judge from the context, no general law on the matter seems then to have been in existence. A synod held (581) at M√Ęcon, in Gaul, by its ninth canon orders that from the eleventh of November to the Nativity the Sacrifice be offered according to the Lenten rite on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week. The Gelasian Sacramentary notes five Sundays for the season; these five were reduced to four by Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-85). The collection of homilies of St. Gregory the Great (590-604) begins with a sermon for the second Sunday of Advent. In 650 Advent was celebrated in Spain with five Sundays. Several synods had made laws about fasting to be observed during this time, some beginning with the eleventh of November, others the fifteenth, and others as early as the autumnal equinox. Other synods forbade the celebration of matrimony. In the Greek Church we find no documents for the observance of Advent earlier than the eighth century. St. Theodore the Studite (d. 826), who speaks of the feasts and fasts commonly celebrated by the Greeks, makes no mention of this season. In the eighth century we find it observed not as a liturgical celebration, but as a time of fast and abstinence, from 15 November to the Nativity, which, according to Goar, was later reduced to seven days. But a council of the Ruthenians (1720) ordered the fast according to the old rule from the fifteenth of November. This is the rule with at least some of the Greeks. Similarly, the Ambrosian and the Mozarabic Riterites have no special liturgy for Advent, but only the fast."

So, we see that many venerable traditions become such not through "authority, written or otherwise," but by organic evolution in continuity with Tradition.

I find approved blessings for Advent wreaths in multiple places, so I'm not particularly concerned that no such blessing is found in your Rituale.

I hope your Advent wreath candles burn brightly!

JBS said...

I'm glad Pater Ignotus promotes "organic evolution in continuity with Tradition". As for the blessing, since it is found in the Book of Blessings, and since the Book of Blessings is part of the Roman Ritual, then it follows that this blessing is part of the Roman Ritual.

John Nolan said...

PI, as I said, it is a harmless custom (if a bit twee) but I don't recall seeing one in church before the 1980s.

I think St Francis, who is credited with introducing the Christmas crib, would probably have approved.

The problem is, since the middle of November every TV commercial break has featured at least one supermarket chain wishing me a Merry Christmas and perhaps the wreath smacks too much of the 'countdown to Christmas'. Perhaps I should be less curmudgeonly but I think that Ebenezer Scrooge had a point ... Bah! Humbug!

Anonymous said...

Fr A J McD 3:46

It was probably my imagination, but I thought I heard a cock crow.....

Anonymous said...

I recall that long ago the advent wreath was primarily used at home, and I also vaguely recall that violet cloth was used in church to cover the statues.

Gerry Davila said...

I was told by our local FSSP Priest that they use the Bkessing for All Things from the Roman Ritual to bless thei Advent Wreath.

Anonymous said...

It seems that genuine, though mostly futile efforts are being made in many parishes to discourage the jump from Thanksgiving straight to Christmas....to wait until midnight Mass to begin Christmas...to celebrate(?), observe(?) Advent. It's a hard sell though....not much, other than an Advent wreath for people to get hold of.....Christmas begins on Thanksgiving day. Sorry Advent. You're getting run over like black Friday. Then on December 26th Christmas is OVER. Out with the tree,,,the Nativity set....time to lay in some booze for the New Year's bash. We're people in a hurry...we all have a bit of A.D.D.

Supertradmum said...

We had many older traditions in our family, such as the empty manger with straw being put in for good deeds and taken out for bad, for the children to make a soft bed for Baby Jesus, or the Jesse Tree, which is also primarily Protestant, and of course, almsgiving and penances.

I guess I think that anything which helps us all think of Advent rather than Christmas is a good thing.

Where I am currently, many churches already have poinsettias and red decorations, not purple, which is a shame. And the Christmas decorations are up everywhere, even in some houses.

For years, I have refused invitations to Christmas parties in Advent and I refuse to go to carol services before Christmas Midnight Mass.

If we all tried to keep Advent, it would be great, but most people think I am a bit nutsy to keep Advent.

Pater Ignotus said...

Mum - Advent "nutsy" is OK in my book!

Anthony said...

Because I attend a traditional independent catholic church,this advent has been the most reverent, repentent,attending mass through the week much as possible,advent I have ever committed to experiencing.We observe the catholic faith pre-1951 & and it's rewarding and humbling to know Advent is more like Lent than a 4 week shop a thon.Growing up in the Novus ordo,we weren't taught any of this,ever!

Anonymous said...

What is "a traditional independent catholic church" (all lower case)?

Anthony said...

@anonymous We adhere to the true Catholic faith pre-1951.Our pastor is a bishop ordained/consecrated in the pre-june 1968 by a bishop who received holy orders in the same rite.We reject the changes of vatican 2.Our pastor is a bishop through the Archbishop Thuc line/lineage.We are like the CMRI,SSPV,SSPX,but on a much smaller level.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I continue to remind you Anthony that no matter how self-righeous and infallible (gnostic) you are about this you have cut yourselves off from the true Church as it exists under Pope Francis the true pope. You, your bishops, no matter if they are validly ordained and your priest have no authority to pontificate on the validity or invalidity of the Catholic Church in the present day--your soul is in jeopardy over this unrepentant mortal sin combined with the deadly sin of pride and the heresy of gnosticism.

Anthony said...

I apologize if I seem self-righteous or infallible,twas not my intent.If possible I would like to add our order of priest's are connected in 5 states.

Anthony said...

So,in all due respect, Francis prays at mosque's,synagogue's, benedict prays with female Lutheran ministers,JP2 holds a multi-faith ecumenical meeting in Assisi,yet I'm going to Hell because I observe,and hold fast to the catholic faith that was handed down by the apostles?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Anthony, regardless of your accusations, your observations or whatever you think is wrong with the decisions any pope has made, you simply have no authority to make a judgment against them as being anti-popes, none whatsoever, nada! And no one in the Church from the highest cardinal to the lowest lay person has this authority, no one!

Only God does and he will do it at the Last Judgment. So return to the true Church under Pope Francis before you are placed on the left side of our Lord as one of the goats at the final judgment.

Anthony said...

This is an apology I am sorry if it seemed I was getting personal and/or being Insulting.This is not my intention and want to let you know my statements were not condemnations of you or your parishioners.These are my beliefs and was just having a discussion.I respect your opinion even though we disagree.Have a blessed evening & week.