Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete in Domino semper! Ember Days as Advent calm in the storm of Christmas prep

In the western church, we have lost much of the penitential nature of Advent. From friends who were Byzantine Catholic, I had learned that there was an Advent fast. It is not as severe as the Lenten fast, but in both liturgy and actions our eastern rite brothers and sisters were a bit more focused on trying to make Advent a real time of preparation.

I know it is hard to stay focused on Advent or any penitential actions since, outside of mass, which for many is just once a week, there is not much if anything to counter the Christmas season that surrounds us and that starts to disappear December 26. Personally, I love Christmas lights and since it is completely dark by 6pm here, it is easy to see numerous houses light up with various degrees of festivity.

We have our Advent wreath and most of our nativity sets are out and waiting patiently for baby Jesus to arrive. The Benedictine office in the EF today included the verse "Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again rejoice" and the gospel reading was focused on those asking Jesus who was John the Baptist. We prepare and are trying to get ready and in the Latin rite we do have helps for this week for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are Ember Days, which are days of fast which occur four times a year. This coming week, Wednesday December 14, Friday December 16 and Saturday December 17 are days to fast and pray, From discussions on other sites, I gather these days were not surpressed but were just not inlcuded anymore on the calendar and in the OF there is not any mention of them in the mass. I was able to attend an EF mass on Ember Saturday in September and it was quite moving and included more readings and prayers of intersession remenicient of those on Good Friday.

Even though you may worship completely in the OF of the mass, you can still try to make time to reflect, pray and even fast in preparation for the coming of Christmas. To try to make certain that in all of the cleaning and shopping and cooking and traveling, we remember to rejoice in the Lord always and to prepare anew for Christ to come into our hearts.

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