Monday, December 04, 2006

Some Liturgical Notes for Advent

Advent is the season that opens the Christian liturgical year, a time of preparing for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we anticipate the celebration of the Lord's birth, we look forward to his coming again in glory, even as we prepare ourselves to receive him worthily-here and now in the blessed Eucharist, as on that final day when we shall partake of the heavenly liturgy.

Being a season of preparation, Advent has a true penitential character. We recognize our unworthiness to receive the Lord because of our sinfulness and we prepare ourselves by approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by being more prayerful and by being more charitable to our needy brothers and sisters, especially those who are most in need.

1. Purple vestments are used throughout the season to remind us that we need to prepare ourselves to receive the Lord worthily. As to the shade of purple, liturgists opine that we use those with a bluer tinge to suggest the Marian character of the season (Our Lady after all is our best model, since she received Jesus worthily in her Immaculate womb) rather than those with a more reddish tinge which better recall the Passion of the Lord during the season of Lent.
2. We lessen the ornaments used in the sanctuary and the rest of the Church to allow for a more somber and quiet anticipation of the joy of Christmas. Christmas decorations are not yet appropriate, at least before December 17. (The same applies to the choice of liturgical songs)
3. The Gloria is not sung except during the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception or other celebrations of great import and prominence (Consult Table of Precedence of Liturgical Days). Note: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation in the Philippines. The use of organ music and other instrumental music is also subdued in the liturgy, usually limited only to the accompaniment of the singing.
4. As such, it is liturgically opportune to hold penitential services during the season of Advent. The same also goes for retreats and recollections that complement our liturgical preparation. Outreach programs and charitable acts are also appropriate.

However, Advent is also a season of joy at the certainty of the Lord's coming as promised by God and foretold by the prophets. During the third Sunday of Advent called Gaudete (after the first word of the entrance antiphon, which is taken from the letter of Paul to the Galatians), we express this joy in the liturgy, as the coming of the Lord already draws near:

5. One of the candles in the Advent wreath, the one which is designated for Gaudete Sunday, is colored rose or pink. Rose or pink vestments may also be used and more ornaments may be placed in the sanctuary and the rest of the Church. (They are however to be taken down again after Evening Prayer II of that Sunday). The Advent candle is a crown of light that symbolizes our increasing hope and expectation as the coming of the Lord approaches. It is lighted during the celebration of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and other appropriate times.

May our proper celebration of Advent prepare us to celebrate worthily the great season of the Lord's coming to dwell among us and share our life. May it help us to be more holy and more loving as we strive to work for the coming of God's Kingdom.

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