We are pleased to have the bloggers from experttextperts as our guests over the next few weeks.
Brooke is a blogger at Expert Textperts who tricked a pretty smart guy into marrying her a couple of years ago. She is a Spanish Education major at BYU – Idaho and currently holds more jobs than is considered normal or socially acceptable.
This semester at BYU – Idaho, I took a class on Catholicism in the Hispanic world. We spent a large portion of the semester studying the religion and rites, and the remainder watching movies about Catholic figures (The Mission and Romero—both of which I would highly recommend) as well as hearing and/or giving presentations on aspects of the religion that I just didn’t know or hadn’t thought of before. While I still think some of the things that Catholics do can be a little weird, like keeping fingers once belonging to saints, I have found my own faith strengthened by a few Catholic practices, like Holy Week and the stories of various saints.
Maybe I’ll write more about some very interesting saints, but ‘tis the season so let’s talk Advent. The Catholic calendar starts on the Sunday nearest to November 30th, the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, known as the first Sunday of Advent. The season of Advent can be a strict time of fasting and prayer much like Lent, the main difference being that Lent is a preparation for the Crucifixion of Christ while Advent is a simultaneous preparation for the Second Coming and celebration of the Messiah’s birth.
During most Sundays of both Lent and Advent, Catholic priests wear violet chasubles in Mass, signifying the sovereignty of Christ and penitence. The only exception being the 3rd Sunday, when they can opt for rose-colored chasubles instead. This is Gaudete Sunday—a day of rejoicing. The Vatican plans out the liturgy (services) for these Sundays with the exception of the homily (sermon), which the priest prepares. It will most likely be inspired by the assigned readings for that Sunday.
Catholics often attend Mass more than usual during Advent, such as for the 8th of December: the feast of the Immaculate Conception (fun fact: that refers to Mary’s conception by her mother Anne, not Christ’s in Mary), as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on top of the regular Sunday Mass each Catholic is required to attend (fun fact: it’s a mortal sin not to attend Mass every Sunday)(note: Saturday night Mass counts as Sunday).
I remember one weird p-day on my mission. Not a soul was in the streets. Every business was shut down, which I remember quite well because my companion and I had hauled our laundry downtown to be washed. We spent that entire day hauling laundry all over trying to find any place that was open to wash our clothes or sell us lunch. Turns out, there wasn’t. It was December 8, Argentina’s Day of the Virgin. Every Argentinian was either at Mass or at home, officially kicking off the Christmasy part of Advent. The next day when we hit the streets, lights were up and the season was suddenly in full swing.
At my parents’ house, it is officially Christmas when on December 1st, my mom hangs a felt Christmas tree with 24 Velcro spots on it for 24 felt ornaments, each with its own corresponding Velcro patch. While this is a fun pastime that may or may not include blown-up arguments over who gets to put the felt Santa up on the 24th, I don’t find it to be a spiritual preparation.
In addition to that, I don’t remember the last time I fasted on any day other than the first Sunday in December, and really that fast isn’t what I would call a preparation for the Second Coming. When I fast, it’s usually for something really selfish, like the ability to survive finals.
For us Mormons, when Christmas falls on Sunday, we cut our church time back by 2 hours. The Christmas program can be inspiring—so long as your choir director and Bishop are willing to coordinate (for me, it’s been hit or miss). We wear red and green to the ward Christmas parties (sometimes), but to me the colors have completely lost their meaning over the years.
Advent is a time of celebration and preparation. It’s not just for cooking 500 batches of cookies, but rather spiritually readiness for the birth and Second Coming of the Savior. I feel like December starts and as Mormons we decorate the house and bake lots of treats. We focus on Christ for the Sacrament hour, maybe sing a couple of hymns, and that’s that. What can we do to better prepare ourselves spiritually for the Second Coming during the season of Advent?