Category Archives: Religion

Remembering the Children Killed by King Herod

Massacre of the Innocents
Matteo di Giovanni (1435–1495)
Public Domain

The Feast of the Holy Innocents or Innocent’s Day (December 28) is to remember the slaughter of male children 2 years and younger in Bethlehem and in its vicinity by Herod the Great. The story as related in the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18). Herod was angered when the Wise Men did not return to him after locating the Messiah. No one can say with certainty how many were killed. Some have doubted it happened at all, but it would be consistent with Herod the Great’s personality. He had no problems executing even members of his family if he thought they were betraying him. And since Bethlehem was a small area, the slaughter may not have been widely noticed.

Nearly all the Christian churches observe the feast day though not on the same day. The Catholic Church and most western churches observe it on December 28 but Eastern Orthodox celebrates on December 29. The slain children are treated as martyrs of the church. It is not certain when it was first observed. While the exact date of the deaths is unknown, it is kept in the octave of Christmas as it followed the birth of Jesus. However, it is believed it took place sometime after Jesus’s birth. Matthew says the Wise Men saw the child with his mother indicating he was no longer a baby. And Herod had learned from the Wise Men the approximate date of the birth.

Sources:

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Photo:Public Domain

 

What Is Advent?

Advent on the Christian calendar is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a season of joy leading up to Christmas Day and a time of preparation similar to Lent. Prayer, fasting, and penance are part of the Advent season. The rules are not as strict as Lent but a time of self-preparation. The purple color used on candles and vestments are associated with penance. Each Advent Sunday is meant to ready oneself for rejoicing at the birth of Jesus that is to come. The Third Sunday of Advent is the anticipatory celebration, and the color rose is used to represent joy.

The Advent wreath

Many homes and churches will have an Advent wreath to symbolize the season, and to mark each Sunday as it happens. The practice began by German Lutherans in the 18th century as a means of teaching Advent to children. The practice began to spread to Catholics and other Christian denominations as well.

Advent wreaths are circular to show that God’s love is infinite and is made with evergreen leaves. It used to be a family event to gather the leaves and make the wreath. The practice has resurfaced in recent years as many families now do this again. Advent wreaths made of artificial evergreens are available in a wide series of designs. Handmade ones can be made to last many years.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent

 

Gaudete Sunday, sometimes called Rejoice Sunday, is the mid-point during the Advent season. Advent is, like Lent, a penitential time but shortened considerably. During Advent priests wear purple and some aspects of the liturgy are, like Lent, not performed. Likewise, the altar is kept as simple as possible. On Gaudete Sunday, the priest will wear a rose or pink color vestment, flowers are allowed in the altar, and the use of an organ is allowed as well. The purpose of the day is to remind that during a time of penance (or any period of darkness) is that God’s joy is with us. That times of darkness are temporary, and we should rejoice. The Advent wreath candle for the day is also rose or pink as well. The word gaudete means rejoice in Latin.

The hymn Veni, veni, Emmanuel (or better known in English as (O come, O come, Emmanuel ) is sung in churches on this day.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel
Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio,
Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
nascetur per te, Israel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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What Is Advent?

Advent on the Christian calendar is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is a season of joy leading up to Christmas Day and a time of preparation similar to Lent. Prayer, fasting, and penance are part of the Advent season. The rules are not as strict as Lent but a time of self-preparation. The purple color used on candles and vestments are associated with penance. Each Advent Sunday is meant to ready oneself for rejoicing at the birth of Jesus that is to come. The Third Sunday of Advent is the anticipatory celebration, and the color rose is used to represent joy.

The Advent wreath

Many homes and churches will have an Advent wreath to symbolize the season, and to mark each Sunday as it happens. The practice began by German Lutherans in the 18th century as a means of teaching Advent to children. The practice began to spread to Catholics and other Christian denominations as well.

Advent wreaths are circular to show that God’s love is infinite and is made with evergreen leaves. It used to be a family event to gather the leaves and make the wreath. The practice has resurfaced in recent years as many families now do this again. Advent wreaths made of artificial evergreens are available in a wide series of designs. Handmade ones can be made to last many years.

Today is Second Sunday of Advent

2nd Advent Sunday
Photo: Clemens PFEIFFER, Vienna (Wikimedia Commons)

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Roman Catholics and many Christian denominations. It encompasses the four weeks (Sundays and weekdays) leading up to Christmas Day. Counting back four Sundays from Christmas Day will get you to the first Sunday of Advent. Depending on the calendar day Christmas falls on, Advent usually begins near the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle celebrated on 30 November. Eastern Orthodox, since it follows the Julian calendar, will start their Advent later as Christmas Day falls 13 days after the current Gregorian calendar.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming or coming to, is a time of preparation for the birth of Christ and a reminder that Jesus will return. During this period, Christians are reminded not to be weighed down or distracted by the cares of this world. Like Lent, Christians are called to reflect on our actions and seek penance. We also should prepare our hearts for the full joy of Christmas. We should not allow our souls to be burdened with predictions of events yet to come, but to be alert and ready. During this period, Catholic priests wear violet vestments, except on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) where rose may be worn. Altars will be less decorated than usual during this time as well.

One of the symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath. This wreath has four candles (battery operated ones are acceptable) and are lit for each Sunday in Advent. Usually, a prayer is also spoken while lighting the prayer and often families will do it together. Most candles are purple, but one will either be white or rose for Gaudete Sunday. The popular Advent calendar is to not only marks down the days till Christmas, but also days of devotion during the season. A Christmas novena is also done. The traditional one is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena which begins on 30 November (the feast day of St. Andrew) and runs till Christmas Eve. A nine -day novena begins on December 16 and goes till Christmas Eve. Many Latin American countries celebrate this as Las Posadas, and it is popular in the Philippines as well (called Sambang Gabi).

There is specific music for the Advent season that is often played in Catholic and Christian churches during religious services. Music such as Silent Night, Adeste Fidelis, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing will not be heard until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Secular songs such as White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are reserved for Christmas concerts (which are sometimes held in churches) are not sung at all during religious services. While Christmas decorations may be outside the church, you will not see Christmas trees in the main area of the church where mass is celebrated. This has nothing to do with any connotation that a Christmas tree is pagan but rather that during Advent we must be solemn in observing it. So, a lighted Christmas tree is often near the entry or just inside the entry (if they have one). This has been the tradition that Saint Pope John Paul II started when he got a Christmas tree from his native country of Poland.

Flowers and wreaths are acceptable near the altar and not on it. Advent wreaths are often placed near the altar and lighted before the service begins. A Christmas crib or nativity scene may also be displayed as well.

 

Fo further Information:

Advent: Dates, Traditions, and History(Infoplease.com)
The Catholic Encyclopedia

First Sunday of Advent

Advent Wreath (1st Sunday)
Photo :Micha L. Rieser(Wikimedia)

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Roman Catholics and many Christian denominations. It encompasses the four weeks (Sundays and weekdays) leading up to Christmas Day. Counting back four Sundays from Christmas Day will get you to the first Sunday of Advent. Depending on the calendar day Christmas falls on, Advent usually begins near the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle celebrated on 30 November. Eastern Orthodox, since it follows the Julian calendar, will start their Advent later as Christmas Day falls 13 days after the current Gregorian calendar.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming or coming to, is a time of preparation for the birth of Christ and a reminder that Jesus will return. During this period, Christians are reminded not to be weighed down or distracted by the cares of this world. Like Lent, Christians are called to reflect on our actions and seek penance. We also should prepare our hearts for the full joy of Christmas. We should not allow our souls to be burdened with predictions of events yet to come, but to be alert and ready. During this period, Catholic priests wear violet vestments, except on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) where rose may be worn. Altars will be less decorated than usual during this time as well.

One of the symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath. This wreath has four candles (battery operated ones are acceptable) and are lit for each Sunday in Advent. Usually, a prayer is also spoken while lighting the prayer and often families will do it together. Most candles are purple, but one will either be white or rose for Gaudete Sunday. The popular Advent calendar is to not only marks down the days till Christmas, but also days of devotion during the season. A Christmas novena is also done. The traditional one is the St. Andrew Christmas Novena which begins on 30 November (the feast day of St. Andrew) and runs till Christmas Eve. A nine -day novena begins on December 16 and goes till Christmas Eve. Many Latin American countries celebrate this as Las Posadas, and it is popular in the Philippines as well (called Sambang Gabi).

There is specific music for the Advent season that is often played in Catholic and Christian churches during religious services. Music such as Silent Night, Adeste Fidelis, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing will not be heard until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Secular songs such as White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are reserved for Christmas concerts (which are sometimes held in churches) are not sung at all during religious services. While Christmas decorations may be outside the church, you will not see Christmas trees in the main area of the church where mass is celebrated. This has nothing to do with any connotation that a Christmas tree is pagan but rather that during Advent we must be solemn in observing it. So, a lighted Christmas tree is often near the entry or just inside the entry (if they have one). This has been the tradition that Saint Pope John Paul II started when he got a Christmas tree from his native country of Poland.

Flowers and wreaths are acceptable near the altar and not on it. Advent wreaths are often placed near the altar and lighted before the service begins. A Christmas crib or nativity scene may also be displayed as well.

Fo further Information:

Advent: Dates, Traditions, and History(Infoplease.com)
The Catholic Encyclopedia

All Souls Day

Day of The Dead by William Bouguereau (1825-1905) Public Domain
Day of The Dead by William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Public Domain

All Souls’ Day is to commemorate the faithful dead and is celebrated by special mass by Catholics and some Christian denominations (most Protestant churches do not observe it). Catholics believe there are three places souls will go: heaven, purgatory, or hell. Purgatory is the place many souls end up as they have lesser sins and are not in a state of grace. Purgatory is an essential stage where souls are cleansed in preparation to go to heaven. Unlike hell, where the fire is for punishment, purgatory is a place for purification and repose. We pray that the souls of our loved ones, friends, and others will be allowed to leave and enter heaven on this day. We especially pray for those who have no one to pray for them.

All Souls Day is not to be confused Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) which does remember friends and family who have died but is not a Catholic or Christian religious event(though it takes place from 31 Oct through 2 Nov which coincides with Halloween, All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day).

Suggested Reading

Rutler, George William. 2014. Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ & What They Mean for You. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.

Van Den Aardweg, Gerard JM. 2009. Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory. Charlotte NC: Tan Books.

Thigpen, Paul. 2019. Saints and Hell, and Other Catholic Witnesses to the Fate of the Damned. Charlotte NC: Tan Books.

All Saints Day

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24)
Public Domain

All Saints’ Day (Solemnity of All Saints, All Hallows, Hallowmas or All Saints’)is celebrated on 1 November by most Western Christians and is to honor all saints known and unknown. In some Catholic countries, it is a holiday. It is a holy day of obligation for most Catholics except when it falls on a Saturday or Monday. In that case it is celebrated on Sunday. Eastern Orthodox is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost and is called All Saints’ Sunday.

Pope Boniface IV formally started All Saints’ Day on May 13, 609 AD. He also established All Souls’ Day to follow All Saints Day. Pope Gregory III (731-741 AD) moved it to 1 November as that was the day the foundation of a new chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica) was being laid. He wanted to dedicate the new chapel to All Saints. Halloween then became part of a three-day period called ‘Days of the Dead” which it is the first day of (the vigil), then followed by All Saints and then by All Souls (those in purgatory). During the reign of Pope Gregory IV (82y-844 AD), he decided to make the feast of All Saints (just celebrated in Rome at that point) universal meaning all dioceses had to observe it.

All Saints  Day is a public holiday in Ireland where all schools, businesses and government is closed.

Happy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter)

Photo by Alisan from Pexels

Traditionally this is known as the Second Sunday of Easter on the liturgical calendar. Since 2000, it is known in the Catholic Church as Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy Sunday is not a feast on its own but is used to close out  Easter as it is 8th and last day of the Easter feast. This is based on the fact that many Jewish observances also last for 8 days. St. Faustina Kowalska also revealed in her revelations that Jesus wanted this 8th day to be part of the Easter feast.