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Catholic Voice
CURRENT ISSUE:  November 21, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Crèche Festival set
for December 9-11

Reviewing changes in
the new Roman Missal

Guadalupe pilgrimage,
Mass Dec. 3
Advent, a time of waiting for the light

What is Advent?
Beginning the Church’s liturgical year, Advent (“ad-venio” in Latin or “to come to”) is the season leading up to the celebration of Christmas. It is the beginning of the Church year; this year, Nov. 27. The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. Advent devotions remind us of the meaning of the season. Special Advent devotions include the lighting of the Advent wreath; the Advent calendar which helps remind us of the season with daily thoughts and activities; Advent prayers that prepare us spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. Four lit candles are set in a wreath. One candle is lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas.

Advent, a season rich with holy days and holidays, is a time of anticipation. The four-week preparation for Christmas begins Nov. 27.

Those who keep the tradition of an Advent wreath will light the first of its four candles that night.
Many parishes are offering workshops to create wreaths and other symbols of the season. Check parish bulletins to find out when and where. Many will also have speakers during the season, as preparations are made for Christmas.

Wreaths, candles, calendars and readings are part of Advent.
Advent is something of a time-out amid the secular countdown of Christmas shopping days. It is also a time when some families may bring some special objects into their homes to remind them of the anticipation of Christmas.

It is a time of tradition: Advent wreath, candles and calendars. It can also be a time for creativity and individuality.

“When you think about Advent, you think about waiting,” said Carlo Busby, who with his wife Mary, owns Sagrada, the sacred arts store in Oakland’s Temescal District. On that wreath, which is usually placed prominently on the family altar or dining room table, people can “put things on it they’re waiting for, hoping for. These days, a lot of people are waiting for a job.”

“Or health,” added Mary Busby.

“The darkness piece is prominent,” she added, “the descent to darkness, the blessings of benign darkness. What wisdom is found in that journey? These symbols offer the opportunity to contemplate that there is mystery in life. Advent is a chance to stop for a minute: Where is wisdom speaking in my life?”

Beyond the child’s pleasure in using an Advent calendar to count down the days before Christmas, there is another way to look at that calendar. Mary Busby points out on the calendar all the events of the season: the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the saints whose feast days are celebrated during that month. She called them “the little stations along the way.”

Those stations along the way also are prominent in the Advent activities at the Cathedral of Christ the Light. Father Ray Sacca, rector of the Cathedral, said that the Dec. 3 diocesan pilgrimage of Our Lady of Guadalupe ends with Mass at the Cathedral, and noted the events, talk and concerts around the Crèche Festival Dec. 9-11.

New to the Cathedral this year will be the Dec. 14 kickoff of the traditional Filipino celebration of Simbang Gabi. Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral, followed by traditional Filipino food and music. The event is scheduled to end at 9 p.m.

At the Cathedral Shop, next to the cathedral of Christ the Light, manager Michele Zaugg and designer Sue Cuneo have set up a display of Advent wreaths, calendars and reading. The newer wreaths offer simple images of Holy Family.

Among the Advent calendars is one that includes Divine Chocolate, a Fair Trade product farmed in Ghana and processed in Germany.

“Advent is a big thing to us,” said Lee Maurice, owner of Glad Tidings, a book and gift store in Pleasanton. Her store stocks about 30 Advent wreaths, she said, and she has noticed that people are buying early and more frugally.

That can mean a family makes its own Advent wreath, often decorating a simple wire frame. She has seen families give their children the chance to decorate the wreath and personalize it for the family. She has seen wreaths made of salt dough and even felt.

“People do like to incorporate children into Advent,” she said. “It’s not just about the presents. It’s building up to a celebration of Jesus’ birth.”

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