Tuesday, December 14, 2010
MY DECEMBER NEWSLETTER ARTICLE FOR OUR PARISH ON ADVENT AND LITURGICAL CHANGES
The Church's Advent season is all about preparing for the coming of Christ by celebrating His birth and anticipating is Second Coming at the end of time and the General Judgment of the living and the dead. Like the Lenten season, Advent is a penitential season although not as severe. Unfortunately, the commercialization of Christmas makes Advent a confusing season. Many of us are so swept up in shopping, baking and singing Christmas carols at home and other gatherings that the Church’s austere approach to Advent strikes us as a disconnect from what society is doing. Then, just as the Church starts to sing Christmas carols on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, (Christmas) everyone else quits. Some people even throw out the Christmas tree and decorations on Christmas Day.
Of course as Catholics we know that Advent ends the morning of December 24 and Christmas begins the Vigil of December 24th or Christmas Eve. This year the Christmas season concludes in the Ordinary Form Roman Calendar on January 9, the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. In the Extraordinary Form Roman Calendar, the Christmas/Epiphany Season normally concludes on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. This includes blessing of liturgical candles and thus is also known as “Candlemas.” Some people keep the manger scene or some remnants of their Christmas decorations up until February 2. Your choice, you decide, but please don’t take things down before New Year’s Day. The eight days beginning with December 25th and concluding with January 1st is known as the “Octave of Christmas (8 Days) and extends Christmas Day for eight days, making eight days one big day to celebrate this wonderful feast. We do the same with Easter and its Octave.
We are making some minor changes to our parish custom of celebrating the Mass. No longer will we pray before Mass the Prayer for Stewardship and the Diocesan Prayer for Vocations. These will remain in the hymnal and I ask that you pray them on your own. Rather, we will pray the Diocesan Prayer for Vocations as the last petition of the General Intercessions and include an intercession for our Stewardship intentions based upon the prayer in the hymnal. The reason for this is that we shouldn’t be adding things to the Mass prior to the Mass beginning. The Processional Hymn begins the Mass as well as the official Entrance Antiphon. We need silent prayer before Mass begins.
In terms of the official texts and music of the Mass did you know that the hymns we sing from our hymnal are not the official prayers or music of the Mass? The official words and music of the Mass are the following:
1. Official Entrance Antiphon (Introit)
4. Responsorial Psalm
5. Gospel Acclamation
7. Official Offertory Antiphon
9. Mystery of Faith
10. Great Amen
11. The Our Father
12. Agnus Dei
13. Official Communion Antiphon
All the metrical hymns and anthems that we sing, such as the processional hymn, offertory anthem, communion hymns and recessional hymn are chosen solely at the discretion of the music director with the approval of the pastor. They may be incorporated into the Mass, but are not essential, but we’ll continue to sing these in addition to the official chants.
Thus, beginning the First Sunday of Advent, our choir or cantor will chant every Sunday the official Entrance Antiphon (Introit) after the processional hymn, once the celebrant is at his chair. The same will occur at the offertory. We will continue the custom already established for chanting the Communion Antiphon. This way, we will begin to hear the actual preferred chants for the Mass, which most of us haven’t heard for 40 years.
I pray that you have a very blessed Advent Season. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the reason for this season. It’s not “Seasons’ Greetings” but Merry Christmas! God so loved the world that in the fullness of time He sent us His only begotten Son, not to condemn the world but to save it. God bless you and Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year of 2011 in the Year of our Lord.