Holy Spirit

ACTA COMMENTARY ON OUR LECTIONARY

 

A D V E N T

 

CRIBBING FOR CHRISTMAS

Download >>> Christ the King 2018

Advent begins the Church’s Year. We return to our beginning in order to understand where we Christians were born and to plot our way toward where we are destined to be. The word Advent means ‘The Coming’. It refers, of course, to the coming of Jesus into our world. But it refers, too, to our coming of age as we are called to become what God intends us to be. We need to know where we come from, what we are for, and where we are going. In Advent there are lots of comings and goings.

 

There is the coming of angels with messages, there is the coming of Magi from the mysterious East, there is the coming of new babies, one to Elizabeth and one to Mary. There is a coming of shepherds, and the coming of Simeon and that wonderful prophet Anna. There are goings from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and from Bethlehem to Egypt.

We hear of all these coming and goings in a pile of words from ancient prophets and from Gospel makers. WE have to obey the first commandment:
Listen!

We sing psalms, and hymns, and carols, full of glorious words - and sometimes, as in The Twelve Days of Christmas, we have mysteries to solve.

Cribbing for Christmas

Advent can be a routine of doing the same things year-in-year-out. But old symbols must be rehabilitated so that imaginations stir and hearts burn as we listen anew to familiar stories.

In the High Street and on line, Advent has been running since October and Christ’s Advent is scarcely begun. It is ever thus. We, too, must begin early if we are to give the High Street a run for its money. We must not close our church at three o’clock on Christmas Eve and pull out the bits and pieces of our crib. Or, to put it another way, if we are to put God back into Christmas.

In the war with advertising, we must get our retaliation in first. The visual aid invented by Francis of Assisi in 1223 in a wood outside Greccio is still a stunning way to put flesh on all the words we hear from our Lectionary. We must start to set up our crib on the first Sunday of Advent and people it on subsequent Sundays, crowning it with the Infant at Midnight Mass.

 

FIRST SUNDAY

Set out your straw ‘stable’. Nearby a lectern and on it as big and beautiful a Bible as can be found. Nearby let the (large cut-out?) Angel Gabriel stand, for he comes out of the Book of Daniel, a witness to God’s beginnings and (Daniel 8:16 and 9:21). He is, as it were, the conductor of the divine symphony of the four Advent Sundays. He has much to say to Mary and to all who wait for the coming of the Lord. The message is that the Jesus who is coming, comes out of Israel’s holy Scriptures and the words of the prophets define who it is, who comes, and why. Place the ox and the ass at the lectern’s foot. They come from Isaiah 1:3 and stand for all that Isaiah and every prophet speaks as we make our way through these holy days. Have a decent sized lantern with a lighted candle during Advent as a sign of things to come. Or a big lighted star. We are, remember, awaiting the coming of the Light of the World. Try to locate your crib in front of your altar in the sanctuary. Two reasons for this:

(i) To make the link between the coming of Jesus into our world and into our hearts in the Word and Bread we receive from our altar;
(ii) To make sure our story is visible, not hidden in the side aisles of our church.
Don’t forget a few armfuls of straw for the manger. On the First Sunday of Advent, have all these stage props carried into church by servers or by young parish folk in the Entrance Procession. Sing the Entrance Hymn provided (see below). Make sure everyone knows what you are doing and can witness the beginning of crib building. Everyone must start on the journey that will take us to Christmas Day and beyond. The readings and homily will begin the Scripture story. Today the preacher will speak of longings, of expectancy, of hopes often dashed but soon to be turned into joy.

SECOND SUNDAY

On the Second Sunday place the Gentile magi and Israel’s shepherds at the back of the church. They are starting their journey and each week they will be moved up, getting nearer and nearer until they come to the Crib and see the child at Midnight Mass.

These travellers represent humanity’s longing, the people who wait in darkness. Like Balaam (Numbers 22-24), the Star of David comes to lead the wise of the world to the place where Israel’s king is born. The shepherds will hear the gospel of great joy for all the people, and are a bit nearer to the manger wherein lies “a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Today the preacher will emphasise the story of John the Baptist who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord. His is the voice announcing that humanity’s rough ways are to be made smooth, as the salvation of God comes to rescue a world from its darkness.

 

THIRD SUNDAY

Make today Joseph’s Day. Carry in your statue of Joseph and place him near the manger. Whatever he was expecting, it was not what he was called to do. Josephs in the Bible are great dreamers and this Joseph met an angel of the LORD God in his dreams and his plans were turned into God’s plans.
Place him near the manger. Let him not be old and bald and drably dressed. For our Joseph, the ‘father’ of Jesus is none other than Joseph the son of Jacob, the one whom his doting father dresses in ‘a long robe with sleeves’ and who comes to us in an amazing technicolour dream coat. Our Joseph is modelled on that Joseph. He has his dreams and finds himself in Egypt, having to care for a precious family. Your parish catechist, remembering that it is Gaudete Sunday, might host a showing of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat for all children, old and young.

The preacher will tell today the story of the man whom God has ‘wrapped in the cloak of integrity’ (First Reading). The words of St Paul today fit Joseph like a glove:

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may … you be kept safe and blameless, spirit, souls, and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.
Second Reading from St Paul.

 

To Joseph is revealed the meaning of the name Jesus and the meaning of Emmanuel:

You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

They shall call his name Emmanuel,
which means God-with-Us.

 

FOURTH SUNDAY

Place Mary beside her Joseph. Luke (and John) honour Mary as the first among disciples, the one whose discipleship never fails, the woman who does not deny, betray or run away. For Luke, Mary is the virgin daughter of Israel who bears a son, who says yes to the angel’s voice who calls her to carry God’s son and birth him in our world. Her will is to do the command of the eternal God (Romans 16:26). Mary is the model for all who would hear the words of God and keep them. And her journey is to go from Nazareth of Galilee to the place of crucifixion (John 19:21).

Carry her image today and let her kneel over the place where she will place her child (John 18:17). The reading today from the holy Gospel according to Luke tells of the young woman who listened to Gabriel’s words. Her heart led to her cousin Elizabeth, lest that woman of a certain age might need her, as she bore another promised child. And how they talked!

 

CHRISTMAS EVE

Carry in the child and pray that he may forever be cribbed in our hearts and minds.

 

A CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE

It is not easy to try something new. But if we build our crib throughout Advent and not in a hurried and hidden afternoon as we ready our churches for Midnight Mass, we can build it in the sight of the people and enjoy together the unfolding of the story of the coming of Jesus Messiah, Son of God.

And what if we had two cribs? What if we were to be doubly bold and build a crib outside our churches, with cardboard cut-outs or whatever art can devise, and tell our story in the market-place? Would not this be a true proclamation of the kingdom outside the walls, in the mess of the people, so that people who walk in darkness may see a great light? Can we not proclaim outside what we celebrate inside?

 

AN ADVENT SONG

I have written some words to fit the framework of that wonderful song Were you there? I have tried to fit each Sunday’s song to the readings of each Sunday of Advent. But not always totally successfully. Choir leaders, please feel free to adapt as you wish.

 

WERE YOU THERE? Preparing the way ADVENT: FIRST SUNDAY

Were you there when the star shone in the sky?
Were you there when the star shone in the sky?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the star shone in the sky?

 

Were you there when they opened up the Book?
Were you there when they opened up the Book?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they opened up the Book?

 

Were you there when the Prophets spoke the Word?
Were you there when the Prophets spoke the Word?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the Prophets spoke the Word?

 

Were you there when the LORD prepared the Way?
Were you there when the LORD prepared the Way?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the LORD prepared the Way?

Were you there when the angels came to call?
Were you there when the angels came to call?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the angels came to call?

 

WERE YOU THERE? Calling the Nations ADVENT: SECOND SUNDAY

Were you there when the Gospels told the tale?
Were you there when the Gospels told the tale?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the Gospels told the tale?

 

Were you there when the Magi saw their star?
Were you there when the Magi saw their star?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the Magi saw their star?

Were you there when Saint Luke began his songs?
Were you there when Saint Luke began his songs?
Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when Saint Luke began his songs?

Were you there with the shepherds in the fields?
Were you there with the shepherds in the fields?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there with the shepherds in the field?

Were you there when the angel came to call?
Were you there when the angel came to call?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the angel came to call?

 

WERE YOU THERE? Saint Joseph ADVENT: THIRD SUNDAY

 

Were you there when young Joseph had his dreams?
Where you there when young Joseph had his dreams?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when young Joseph had his dreams?

 

Were you there when Emmanu’el got his name?
Were you there when Emmanu’el got his name?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when Emmanu’el got his name?

 

Were you there when young Joseph woke from sleep?
Were you there when young Joseph woke from sleep?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when young Joseph woke from sleep?

 

Were you there when good Joseph said he would?
Were you there when good Joseph said he would?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when good Joseph said he would.

Were you there when he took his Mary home?
Were you there when he took his Mary home?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when he took his Mary home?

 

WERE YOU THERE? Mary ADVENT: FOURTH SUNDAY

 

When you there when young Mary heard the word?
Were you there when young Mary heard the word?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when young Mary heard the word?

 

Were you there when Gabriel called her blest?
Were you there when Gabriel called her blest?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when Gabriel called her blest?

 

Were you there when she pondered at the call?
Were you there when she pondered at the call?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when she pondered at the call?

 

Were you there when young Mary said “I will!”?
Were you there when young Mary said “I will!”?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when young Mary said “I will!”?

Were you there when Elizabeth had her child?
Were you there when Elizabeth had her child?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when Elizabeth had her child?

 

Were you there when young Mary sang her song?
Were you there when young Mary sang her song?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when young Mary sang her song?

 

CHRISTMAS Were You There? MIDNIGHT MASS

Were you there when the child began to cry?
Were you there when the child began to cry?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the child began to cry?

Were you there when they laid him in the manger?
Were you there when they laid him in the manger?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the manger? Luke 2:7

 

Were you there when the angels sang their song?
Were you there when the angels sang their song?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the angels sang their song? Luke 2:13

 

Were you there when the shepherds saw their Lord?
Were you there when the shepherds saw their Lord?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the shepherds saw their Lord? Luke 2:11

 

Were you there when God's glory shone around?
Were you there when God's glory shone around?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God's glory shone around? Luke 2:9

 

CHRISTMAS This is the Day MASS OF THE DAY

 

Were you there when she swaddled Christ the Lord?
Were you there when she swaddled Christ the Lord?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when she swaddled Christ the Lord? Luke 2:7 and 12

 

Were you there when the shepherds told their tale?
Were you there when the shepherds told their tale?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the shepherds told their tale? Luke 2:17-20

 

Were you there when they glorified the LORD?
Were you there when they glorified the LORD?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they glorified the LORD? Luke 2:1

 

Were you there when God's glory shone around?
Were you there when God's glory shone around?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God's glory shone around? Luke 2:9

Were you there when Peace came to the earth?
Were you there when Peace came to the earth?
Oh-Oh! Oh-Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when Peace came to the earth? Luke 2:14

(Copyright: Reverend Dr Joseph O’Hanlon]

 

 

NOW FOR A SONG THAT SHOULD BE SUNG ON EVERYDAY OF THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS …

A CHRISTMAS SONG

On the first day of Christmas,
MY TRUE LOVE
Gave to me
A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE.

On the second day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me
TWO TURTLE DOVES,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
THREE FRENCH HENS,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.
( and so on …)
FOUR CALLING BIRDS.
FIVE GOLD RINGS
SIX GEESE A-LAYING.
SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING.
EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING.
NINE LADIES DANCING.
TEN LORDS A-LEAPING.
ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING.
TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING.

An English Catechism of the Catholic Church

This is an Elizabethan Catholic catechism. That is Elizabeth I. Many have claimed other origins. But if you can decipher what each gift is, you will see that it is a very fine piece of Christian teaching.

Two clues:

My true love is God
A partridge in a pear tree is Jesus

Is there a
A Sponsor in the House?
Or
Sponsors?
This song should be sung as the recessional hymn at every Mass over the Christmas period. Why not have a competition to identify what every gift is. But you must explain why each gift is chosen. A special prize for anyone who knows why those nine ladies were dancing. All prize money to go to the SVP, please.

 

 

Please Login to post comments