Friday, December 5, 2014
SHOULD WE MAKE MORE OUT OF THE ADVENT WREATHE THAN IS NECESSARY?
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. However, it is not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.
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.
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. 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.