VEN BEFORE Thanksgiving had arrived, the shops were proclaiming it is Christmas. This annoys me every year, and every year Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier. Hobby Lobby starts putting out their Christmas decor in August. I used to try to resist the insistence on early Christmas shopping, but I soon learned the hard way that if you do not start your Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving, come Christmas there will be very little of the good stuff left on the shelves and you will have to choose from the picked-over things no one wanted. But hurrying into Christmas not only diminishes our enjoyment of the current season, it rushes us along to start thinking about something that is nowhere near arriving. In his masterpiece of an article entitled, “Christan Families, Awake!” Anthony Esolen, a brilliant author and college professor, describes “the many millioned particles of itching powder spread by the Internet—buy, look, watch, spend, gape, grasp, snatch, scratch—but all of them forming a crawling and swarming world of perpetual unease.” If you haven’t read that article, I very highly recommend it. It is a great description of the feeling that pervades the secular world.
To place ourselves squarely in the season of Advent, I’d like to present you with some new Advent compositions for your choirs.
* PDF Download • “O EMMANUEL” (SAB)
—Advent composition by seminarian Juanpablo Macias.
* PDF Download • “O EMMANUEL” (TTB)
—Advent composition by seminarian Juanpablo Macias.
Juanpablo Macias, a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Las Vegas, currently in his second year of formation at Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon. Previously, he taught middle school band for five years, sharing his passion for music. With a master’s in Music Education, Juanpablo enjoys composing, singing, and playing organ for the sacred liturgy. In between studies, he serves as a choir member and organist for the Las Vegas Latin Mass.
If you would like to take a listen, here is a recording of his new piece, sung by some of the seminarians at Mt. Angel Seminary.
Here is another recent composition, this one is by Jonathan Embry – just in time for the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Jonathan Embry is the Director of Music and Cathedral Organist at the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, Montana.
How do we observe Advent without essentially skipping over it entirely?
Across the internet, Catholic mothers are posting threads asking what their homes should look like for Advent. No one knows anymore, least of all Catholic converts who did not grow up in the faith. We all know what Christmas should look like, and in the attempt to restore Catholic tradition and culture, many families are now insisting upon having the correct season in their own homes. It is important that Catholics do not rush into Christmas – because if we do, we will find ourselves observing the Christmas season for 3 months instead of one and a half!
This is because once Christmas begins on December 25th, the season will last for 40 days, ending with Candlemas on February 2nd (aka the Purification of the BVM). If you don’t believe me that Christmas actually lasts all the way through January, simply consider that for the seasonal Marian antiphons, the Alma Redemptoris Mater only changes after February 2nd. Consider also this article which covers the multitude of feast days contained within those 40 days.
Therefore, let’s not rush things. Christmas has its own time and there will be plenty of it!
Here are 6 ways to fully embrace Advent without rushing into Christmas.
- Decorate your home for Advent
In my quest to do my small part in restoring Catholic culture and liturgical living, I have listed my take on a traditional Advent in my Etsy shop. I have so many ideas for more items that will help Catholics decorate for Advent, but since I am still very new at this it will take time to get these ideas developed and listed.
Any family who has tried to decorate their home in purple with a splash of pink during Advent will have discovered that it is a huge amount of work to do so, and then redecorate entirely for the reds and greens of Christmas! Instead, consider decorating with the usual colors but use Advent-themed art to bring the decor in line with Advent. For example, this snowy red farmhouse has the right colors and themes but the words belong to the traditional Advent hymn, Rorate Caeli. However, if you love the idea of splashing rose colored things around your house on Gaudete Sunday like I do, you might try this rose-colored vintage angel instead.
2. Pray (or sing!) the O Antiphons.
The O Antiphons are the prayers that go along with the Magnificat canticle of Vespers from December 17-23rd. Starting on the evening of December 17th you can make these prayers part of your family evening prayer. The O Antiphons call out the different names of the Savior, and the beginning of each name forms the acrostic ERO CRAS, which in Latin means “tomorrow I will be (there)”. If you want to sing them, we have a PDF download of the O Antiphons for you, and you can listen here for recordings of these.
3- Decorate a Jesse Tree
One great tradition you can start is to decorate a Jesse Tree. This seems to be a tradition that dates back to the medieval period, and it is a really great way to celebrate each day of Advent. You can follow this link from Loyola Press for full instructions on the Jesse Tree, including all the necessary Bible readings for each day. Essentially, you can print out or purchase the readings for each day and after you read them together as a family you hang them on a tree (whether a paper tree poster or a real one). The Internet is awash with products you can purchase for this, including posters with sticker images for each day. But to make it a little more hands on, you can make your own Jesse tree paper ornaments.
4- Use an Advent Companion. Give your Traditional Latin Mass the gift of an Advent Companion. For those smaller parishes (or now, Shrines) with a Traditional Latin Mass that cannot afford the glorious Campion missal or that needs Spanish propers, you can use this small Advent Companion, which is fully bilingual with both English and Spanish translations of the propers and contains traditional hymns for the season as well as the propers for all 4 Sundays of Advent and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It also contains the traditional kyriale for Advent and all seven Credos. If you can manage it, the Campion Missal is a much better choice. But those on a tight budget, or those needing Spanish propers, may prefer the Advent Companion. Since the organ is silent during Advent, the hymns contained therein will be helpful for the congregation.
5- Light the Advent Wreath. This is an easy one! Every Sunday in Advent you can light one more candle and say a prayer. I don’t think I need to say much more on the matter since it is easily found online, but I though you would appreciate this free printable that I created. You can print out and keep handy, just make sure you opt for 5×7 prints because that is what they are formatted for.
6-Keep the Nativity scene empty.
Add one piece every couple of days to the Nativity, and only add the Infant Jesus on Christmas Day. Additionally, you can keep the Three Wise Men out of the scene until Epiphany. Some creative families like to place the Three Wise Men somewhere else in the house and on Christmas they begin to slowly move them closer and closer to the creche, until they finally arrive on the Feast of the Epiphany. Incidentally, did you know that you can actually decorate for Epiphany, too?
A Note about Christmas preparations during Advent
Some people think that if you want to observe Advent in a traditionally-minded way, you should not be Christmas shopping or celebrating much because after all, it is a “purple” season when the priest’s vestments are a penitential color and we are not celebrating the birth of Christ yet. Yes, it is a purple season – but it is still a time of joyful expectation and preparation. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year; it is not a “second Lent”. Mary was expecting a baby, and as all mothers do, she would have been preparing herself for the new life to come. Remember that we are preparing for the birth of the Christ Child – and as such, not only can we prepare our hearts all Advent long, we can also prepare the spaces in our homes to receive Him joyfully as well.