Advent, the basics for this year:
The first Sunday of Advent is December 2nd, 2007. December 9th, 16th and 23rd obviously filling out the four weeks. Important dates within Advent are: the Feast of Saint Nicholas on Thursday, December 6, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, December 8 and the Feast of Saint Lucy on Thursday, December 13. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy Day of Obligation. The four weeks of Advent are typically “themed” Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. I have seen several variations on this, but I would discard any that didn’t have the pink candle and Joy for week three (Gaudete).
Advent is not just a Catholic thing, Lutherans and a few others have long celebrated it and some other reformed and protestant churches are also bringing it back. But I am not really up on all the ways others celebrate so you might have to bare with me.
Advent is ideally a time of prayer and spiritual reflection. A time for anticipating the Birth of the Savior. Which sounds rather strange considering it is an event that took place some 2000 years ago, but we anticipate it every year as part of the liturgical calendar. Liturgy is one of those sublime things. Its ability to bring us in again and again to the events that shape our collective faith strengthens and shapes our personal faith. The birth of Christ, celebrated in the darkest days of the year, reminds us in a very tangible way that no matter how far from Him we have traveled and how broken we have made ourselves Christ is born again in the darkness of our lives and we are born again in Him.
I didn’t grow up with Advent, being a convert. Our family has been building our Advent traditions each year we try one or two new ideas and keep those things we find give us joy and build our faith. Not everything works for every family.
After my conversion to the Catholic faith in 1998 I was overwhelmed by everything that is Catholic. There are many wonderful devotions and practices, traditions and cultural expressions of the Catholic faith. No one can do them all. Advent really appealed to me. Each year we have experimented with one or two ideas and kept those that mean the most to us.
Over the next couple weeks I am going to write about those Advent activities that have become traditions for our family. Today I want to focus on The Wreath. One of the first things we began was the advent wreath. I make two evergreen wreaths every year. One a wall hanging and one for the Advent wreath. It becomes the focal point during Advent. Four candles, three purple and one pink adorn the wreath in addition to ribbons and florist “picks”.
Some parishes have Advent wreath making events where the parishioners gather together and make their wreaths which are then blessed and taken home to be used throughout the season. We make ours at home. Later this month I will post instructions and hopefully pictures of our wreath making endeavors. Anyone can bless the wreath (you don’t need to take it to a priest) usually I see prayer books recommend the father take on this duty and I think that is a wonderful thing.