Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Meditation from Rome

Manger scene outside the seminary chapel at the Pontifical North American College.
Photo courtesy D. Rankin, seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield, IL 
Courtesy of Fr. Brian Baker, good friend and fellow Atlanta priest studying in Rome, a reflection on this last week leading up to Christmas, from Fr. Kurt Besole OSB, director of Liturgical Formation at the Pontifical North American College.

We're in the final stretch before the Christmas season! Here's a reflection to help guide your prayerful preparation these final days:

On December 17th, the Church’s Advent liturgy begins to focus in a particular way on the Nativity of the Lord. The prayers, readings, and preface at Mass as well as the readings, antiphons for the Gospel canticles, intercessions, and prayers at the Liturgy of the Hours concentrate more resolutely than during the preceding days of Advent on the coming feast of the Nativity of the Lord.

The great “O Antiphons” have a particular role in these days as they have been used for centuries as the antiphons for the Magnificat [prayed at Vespers]. Each antiphon, always sung in a very similar melody, begins with a title of Christ, usually taken from the Old Testament, and followed by the petition that he come to us (veni) and act on our behalf:

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Iesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Daystar) [after this date, the days begin to get longer]
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O God-with-Us)

When taken together from the last title to the first, the first letters of each title form the wonderful Latin acrostic:



They form the Lord’s response to the Church’s ardent petition that he come (veni):

ERO CRAS (I will be there tomorrow)! 

[Fr. G adds: The verses of the famous Advent Hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!" are based on the "O" Antiphons of the liturgy.]

"O Adonai" The O Antiphon for December 17 

(A hauntingly beautiful polyphonic arrangement of the traditional Advent hymn)

Friday, December 05, 2014

Holy Hour for Advent

:: UPDATE :: Audio of the sermon is up at SoundCloud (28:55 min)

Here are some photos from the Advent Vespers service that we held at St. Joseph parish earlier this evening. There was Exposition, and Vespers were sung, with a sermon and Benediction concluding.

I was mighty pleased at the turn out, some 50-60 parishioners, including a great showing from our parish young adult outreach, who provided cookies and snacks on the porch afterward.
Incensation, either during Benediction,
or at the beginning of the Magnificat
(following Elliot's, "Ceremonies of the
Modern Roman Rite.")
Incensation during the Magnificat

Cookies & snacks on the porch after
I used the Meinrad tones (PDF link) for the psalmody (which we used regularly in seminary). Our choir director cantored, with the able help of our organist. The Vespers program did not have the notes for the faithful (I used a printout from Ebreviary), yet, after a few lines, the congregation picked up the tones very well.

And the sermon itself? Following the Bishop of Hippo's advice to preachers, I just lifted it directly from one of the great preachers in the English tongue, Blessed John Henry Newman, updating the language a little, and adding some (a little, very little) additional commentary and illustrations. It was his Advent sermon, "Watching" (Parochial Sermons 4, No. 22). It truly is a worthwhile and challenging read for this holy season.

On the way out, several folks said that we should do this more regularly.

Before the service, with one of the servers (who's applying to seminary. Pray for him!)
I'm most thankful for all those who worked hard, not least our cantor and organist. I encourage all of my brother priests and other pastoral leaders who might be thinking of something like this, to pursue it. The beautiful liturgical heritage of the Church should be shared with the faithful. This is indeed what the Council wished! And God is pleased with reverent and proper worship, and no doubt bestows many graces, especially to those who assemble to devoutly adore the Most Blessed Sacrament, and pray the Divine Office.

For your Advent reflection, if you do not wish to read the entire sermon (preached, it lasted a little over 28 minutes), here is a bit from the end:
Pray Him to give you what Scripture calls "an honest and good heart," or "a perfect heart," and, without waiting, begin at once to obey Him with the best heart you have. Any obedience is better than none,—any profession which is disjoined from obedience, is a mere pretence and deceit. Any religion which does not bring you nearer to God is of the world. You have to seek His face; obedience is the only way of seeking Him. All your duties are obediences. If you are to believe the truths He has revealed, to regulate yourselves by His precepts, to be frequent in His ordinances, to adhere to His Church and people, why is it, except because He has bid you? and to do what He bids is to obey Him, and to obey Him is to approach Him. Every act of obedience is an approach,—an approach to Him who is not far off, though He seems so, but close behind this visible screen of things which hides Him from us. He is behind this material framework; earth and sky are but a veil going between Him and us; the day will come when He will rend that veil, and show Himself to us. And then, according as we have waited for Him, will He recompense us.