From the Pastor: It Is Still Advent For One More Week
With only one full week left before Christmas, things are getting pretty hectic around the parish. Not that you all don’t have to scramble to keep up with all that’s going on at your houses! There are Advent penance services going on throughout the deanery, all looking for extra priests to help out. Most of them feed the priests quite well beforehand. That’s certainly a relief, for it helps to give us a more balanced diet, most of which has been made up of Christmas cookies, homemade fudge, and assorted chocolates and candies. I wonder what people did in the old days when Advent was traditionally a season of fast and abstinence. Were cookies and candies not baked or confected? Made but not eaten until Christmas? Cooked, eaten surreptitiously, and then confessed at the penance services? Hmmm... Maybe that is why those services became so popular! We are also, of course, preparing for the Christmas Masses. It seems quite possible that we will be able to celebrate a Solemn High Mass at Midnight this year. We almost pulled it off last year but lost a priest or two at the last minute. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of having three clerics around too often, so we don’t get a lot of practice and we have to re-learn our positions each time. Last week we had two Solemn High Masses, one for the Immaculate Conception and one for the Rorate Coeli Mass. Because of those Masses, we already have some amount of practice. But because we did not have the same priest, deacon and subdeacon at either of those two Mass and won’t have the same ones at the Midnight Mass, we each have to study different roles once again. One day we hope to have so many priests wishing to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass that these Masses will become second nature! Please pray for it. By the way, I am writing this before the Rorate Coeli Mass actually happened, so I can’t tell you how that worked out but I have faith that everything went well.
We are also still working on getting everything spruced up, cleaned up, and decorated. I really do appreciate all of you who have worked so hard to make this House of God as worthy as possible for the celebration of Our Savior’s birth. Traditionally during Advent there are no flowers in the church, nor special decorations. Those are left for Christmas. The lack of flowers is what led people years ago to begin bringing poinsettias into the church, as the color comes from the bracts, which are modified leaves, not flowers! There is a beautiful legend regarding how the poinsettia plant first came into being. It goes something like this, with a few small variances depending on who is telling it. A young Mexican girl from a poor family was going to see the baby Jesus as He lay in the manger in their church on Christmas Eve. Unlike the Three Wise Men who had brought gold, frankincense and myrrh so many years before, she had no money for gifts. At the prompting of an angel she picked a handful of green weeds from the roadside, gingerly set them down in front of the image of the Holy Infant and quietly slipped away. But the people saw the bouquet suddenly shine forth with bright red star-shaped leaves! This is thought to be symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem which the Magi followed to find and adore Holy Babe on the first Epiphany. Anyway, that is why you will see a few of these plants in the church during Advent and more on Christmas and Epiphany. But the “Christmas creep” which has infected the stores and controls our shopping experience nowadays, has also come into the churches. Just as it now seems normal to see lights and trees and ornaments in the stores in August, so it seems normal to see flowers and Christmas trees and flashing lights and all sorts of non-liturgical decorations in the church beginning in Advent. Trying to remain “traditional” about Advent causes a lot of disappointment among the Catholic Faithful (and even among priests) who want to see all the decorations only in Advent and on Christmas day and maybe Epiphany and then have them disappear long before Christmas is officially over. It seems, since I brought it up, that if we can keep the poinsettias alive until February 2, Candlemas, that is the time they, along with the other Christmas decorations, should come down. In my experience, though, it is hard to keep the poinsettias vibrant even for a couple of weeks. They always get too much water or not enough water or not enough light, or something, and, therefore, die (or at least lose all of their leaves) just before everyone gets to see them, no matter when they were put in the church. Since I brought up the subject of decorations, did you know that the one place where almost every church places the creche so that everyone can see it (the sanctuary) is only place in the church which the current liturgical rules say cannot be the site where that manger scene is placed? Yep. Go figure. But the reasoning for both it being there and it not being allowed there is going to have to wait for another day, another bulletin, another year. For now it is time to get on with the Advent hustle and bustle. As for you, even if it is chaotic, enjoy your Christmas preparations!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka