'Tis the Season: Advent!

'Tis the Season: Advent!

‘Tis the season! I noticed even before Thanksgiving that Menards’ put up their Christmas-land section. Advertisements start popping up here and there “preparing” us for Christmas (or at least, preparing us to buy things from them for Christmas). It’s become cliché among us Catholics to complain about how early the great consumer-push for Christmas starts each year. Indeed, it does seem to get earlier and earlier.

So, I’d like to take this time to give some attention to that wonderful liturgical season called “Advent.” Remember Advent? I know, I almost forgot about it, too.

Many of us have Advent wreaths, some do the countdown-to-Christmas Advent calendar, or perhaps we add some spiritual preparation to our prayer routine. All of these things are good and help to keep us focused on what – or perhaps who – is about to come: Jesus (at Christmas). Advent’s “feel” is one of solemn anticipation. The Church communicates this primarily through its liturgy: the use of violet vestments, the omitting of the Gloria, moderate use of floral decorations around the altar and moderate use of the organ.

This is what we see at Mass. But, also part of the liturgy of the Church, the Divine Office sets the mood for the Coming of Christ. Particularly, starting December 17 and ending on the 23, during Vespers (Evening Prayer) we see the use of the “O Antiphons.” They get their name from the use of “O” to begin each antiphon: O Wisdom of our God Most High, O Leader of the House of Israel, O Root of Jesse’s stem, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of all nations, O Emmanuel. Each antiphon addresses Jesus in a different title.

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That last “O” might cue you in to where you know these antiphons from: O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Read the text for that song and you have the “O Antiphons” conveniently packaged into one hymn! The words are not exactly the same, but they convey the same message.

Another interesting tidbit about these wonderful nuggets of Advent: they teach us something about the spirit of Advent. Looking at the first letter in the titles of Jesus in Latin – Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root), Clavis (Key), Oriens (Dawn), Rex (King), Emmanuel (Emmanuel) – and working backward, we can spell EROCRAS. Pretty cool, huh?

Not really. What is cool, though, is splitting these letters up into the phrase “ero cras.” English translation from Latin: “I will be (there) tomorrow.”