Sunday, November 30, 2014

Happy New (Liturgical) Year

by scovich
Today begins the new Liturgical Year! This commences a series of posts in which we hope to do what little we can to guide ourselves and our readers through the season of Advent, which lasts from now until Christmas. Remember that this is a season of Penance, almost like a miniature Lent. The dark tones of the ancient Advent hymn “O Come O Come Emanuel”, commonly sung in many parishes, are a reminder of this.

As readers of this blog know, we have a particular devotion to the concept of the Liturgical Year. In the past few weeks, in the close of the liturgical year, the Church asks us to contemplate apocalyptic topics, in the Mass readings and in devotional practices. In the beginning of the liturgical year, readings in both the traditional and modern calendars become less apocalyptic, but exhort us to wait patiently on the Lord.

Wake up!
The theme, especially in this first Sunday of Advent, is awakening. We are asked to begin the new year by staying awake, not only to await our eternal salvation and to prepare to celebrate the Lord’s birth at Christmas, but also to receive the wisdom to do all that God asks of us. This is a good time to renew giving to charity, examine ways in which we are not following God assiduously, to read scripture, and to contemplate vocation.

In our last post, for All Saints Day, we discussed the concepts of the Church as containing the past, present and future. Again, in Advent, we contemplate the three comings of Christ:
- first, in the historical past, encompassing the time from His incarnation and birth in Bethlehem through His passion, death, to His resurrection;
- second, in our own present time, His coming to each of us who receive him (as in John 1:12-13), as we follow Him and work out our salvation through His grace;
- third, in the future, His coming "in power and majesty" at the end of the world.

Editor's Note:
St Andrew Christmas prayer begins today. I've not kept up with this, but I know others who do--it's a short prayer repeated (15x) daily Nov 30th until Christmas.

What devotional practices will you choose this Advent? When I was a child, my parents helped me write a letter to Baby Jesus every Sunday. I rolled up the letter, tied a purple ribbon and put it in His stocking, as His birthday gifts. I will (probably) not take a whole page to write out something like "Dear Baby Jesus, I made my bed today and I did what Mom said. Happy birthday"--but the sentiment is still there.

This year, I know some of us will be reading and discussing Scriptural passages--mostly chosen from the lectionary and office of readings--from Isaias and other prophets as well the early chapters of Matthew's and Luke's Gospels. Some will pray a daily Rosary or the Angelus. Some might choose another prayer or practice for the month of December or for the nine days leading up to Christmas.

As in Lent, some might take this special time to focus more on particular works of charity, or of establishing a habit of spiritual reading or meditation, or of cultivating a particular virtue opposed to some habitual vice.

What special intention might you have during Advent? I'll follow up this week with another post about the coming of Christ in our hearts this Christmas and some of my reflections and intentions this time around. (Keywords/spoiler: children, education) If you would, please share your intentions & practices in the comment threads.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints, All Souls--All to Our Edification.

November 1 is the Feast Day of All Saints and November 2 is the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day). We wish to revive observances of these holy days on the Church calendar, especially over and above the much abused custom of All Hallows Eve (Halloween).

Complicating matters this year, these two great feasts fall on a Saturday and a Sunday. All Saints' Day is a holy day of obligation, though that obligation was commuted this year. Of course, many parishes do still have Mass for the feast and today, in a special way, many faithful Catholics venerate all the saints--named and unnamed.

Novus Ordo Masses for All Souls Day will be on Sunday, November 2nd. However, Catholics celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Tridentine Latin Mass) will not be observing All Souls Day in the Sunday Mass. In the 1962 Missal, the Mass of the Sunday takes precedence, and the All Souls' Masses (three of them!) are moved to Monday, November 3rd, as explained here.

We in the Sodality often think of the Communion of Saints as a large social network. The Communion of Saints includes not only those canonized by the Church, but also other souls who are in heaven--all of these, even if we don't know their names or give them their own memorial, are part of the great Church Triumphant.
You can listen to the common Litany of the saints here
And this Communion chant for All Saints’ Day Mass here

In fact, these two holy days together bring to mind all states of the Church: the Church Triumphant (those souls in heaven), the Church Suffering (in purgatory) and the connection both of these have with the Church Militant (those of us still working out our salvation on earth). Those designations are explained here. This weekend, let us call to mind the "cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1) and be ever more faithful to Christ and His Church.

All Souls' Day brings our attention to those Holy Souls who are in Purgatory, being purified before they enter heaven (these are the Church Suffering). We faithful on Earth, the Church Militant, besides asking for the intercession of the saints in heaven, ought to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory to aid their journey. It cannot be known for certain where any uncanonized individual is in the afterlife, but we may pray for all as an act of goodwill and charity. Remember, it is one of the chief spiritual works of mercy to pray for the living and the dead.

 Here is a video of a Latin All Souls Day Requiem Mass. Observe the black vestments, the  catafalque covered in black, and the prayers for the dead as at a traditional Requiem Mass. Some of us in the Sodality are especially attached to the text of the sequence Dies Irae and Mozart's incomparable setting of the Requiem Mass.

Throughout the month of November, as we end the liturgical year, we as Catholics are especially attentive to mourning the dead and to remembering our own end. Between now and Advent, readings in both the Traditional and Novus Ordo Masses move toward apocalyptic topics, as we acknowledge that at some time, Christ will return to end Satan’s power once and for all. In the Novus Ordo calendar, the end of the liturgical year will culminate with the Feast of Christ the King on November 23 (this feast is celebrated on the last Sunday in October in the traditional calendar, close to All Saints' Day rather than close to Advent).

Editor's note: this post was composed (well in advance!) by scovich. Due to largely unforeseen editorial delay, it is posted later than expected.