Venite Adoremus!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

No one is certain who wrote the original four verses of “Adeste Fideles,” known in English as “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Some have claimed it was Saint Bonaventure, others King John IV of Portugal, and still others an anonymous Cistercian monk during the High Middle Ages. The tune we’re familiar with is credited to John Francis Wade, and may have come to him in some form via the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The most familiar English translation is by an English Catholic priest named Frederick Oakley, and it is this version that will be sung on Christmas Eve in churches both Catholic and Protestant throughout the English-speaking world.

It one of many hymns, carols, and song that have been around for so long that no one knows for sure who wrote it. Many traditions are like that, whether widespread ones or those particular to families. Traditions root us in a rootless era, bringing back childhood memories and connecting us with long-departed predecessors. Celebrate yours this week whatever they may be.

And adore the One who came to make all the old things new.

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An Epiphany Blessing

The Magi on camels crossing the desert.

James Tissot – The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage) – Brooklyn Museum

From CatholicCulture.org.

This ceremony of the blessing of the home and inscription of the initials of the three Magi above each door can be performed either by a priest or the father of the family. This is from the book The Twelve Days of Christmas by Elsa Chaney.

The feast of manifestation, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated the 12th day after Christmas, January 6th. In the dioceses of the United States this feast has been moved to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

Prayer:

On entering the home,

Leader (Priest, if present, or father of the family) : Peace be to this house.
All: And to all who dwell herein.

All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

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Spilled Salt

Spilled salt

Detail of the copy of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper by Giacomo Raffaelli (1809)

There isn’t a Five Minute Friday topic today. Lisa-Jo Baker is taking a break until January. But I felt like writing anyway, so here goes. Today is Friday the 13th and my prompt—chosen just this moment off the top of my head—is “superstition.”

I’ve never been superstitious. I don’t put any faith in little trinkets or actions that might help things break the right way. I don’t believe in “curses” or “hexes” or “mojo.” I don’t think the universe is capricious and certainly don’t believe that God is either.

But I inherited one superstition from my mom. A silly one—more a habit than anything else.

If I spill salt, I immediately pick up a pinch and toss it over my shoulder.

I don’t believe for a minute that spilling salt is unlucky. I also don’t believe that tossing a little of it over my shoulder before I clean the rest up somehow negates this non-existent bad luck. I just do it without thinking.

I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure what it says about me. Maybe just that I have habits like everyone else—habits that I don’t think about. Maybe I have more that I don’t even notice.

Five Minute Friday

The Advent of Advent

Christmas is coming, but you wouldn’t know that from a visit to a local shopping mall. Given that the decorations went up at the end of October and the carols have been playing on an endless loop since the week before Thanksgiving, you would think Christmas was already here. That it isn’t one day—or to be more precise a twelve-day season—but a two month shopping binge ending in a giant blizzard of wrapping paper on the morning of December 25th.

And in the mad rush to celebrate Christmas, we’ve forgotten the equally important season that proceeds it.

Allow me to introduce Advent. Still kept in some church traditions (mainly Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran) it has been all but abandoned in secular American culture. Maybe it’s time to bring back Advent as a way to put the breaks on the retail madness. A good way to start is with one or more of the following traditions:

The Advent Wreath

Arrange four candles in a circle—three purple, one pink (see photo at top). Lay a wreath around the candles (fake greenery please to prevent a fire). Then each Sunday (beginning this year on December 2nd) light the candles as follows:

  • First Sunday (12/02/12): Purple candle opposite the pink candle.
  • Second Sunday (12/09/12): Purple candles opposite and to one side of pink candle.
  • Third Sunday (12/16/12): The two purple candles already lit and the pink candle.
  • Fourth Sunday (12/23/09): All four candles.

Or you can light the candles on the Saturday evening proceeding each Sunday, This follows an older Jewish tradition of beginning the day at sunset.

You can light the candles in either clockwise or counterclockwise order. Then on Christmas Eve, light all the candles again plus a white candle in the middle. You can say a prayer when lighting (if you’re so inclined) or just light the candles silently.

Advent Calendars

An advent calendar counts the days down from December 1st to December 25th. The calendar is usually a large picture with twenty-five little doors (or flaps) numbered for each day. Inside each door is a picture, and in some calendars a treat. Advent calendars are available with both religious and secular themes, and are a great way for children to count down the days. Just make sure your child only opens one door a day, It’s tempting to open them all at once.

The Creché

Finally, if you keep a nativity set (or creché) as part of your family tradition you can mark the time to Christmas and tell the story of the Nativity in real time by introducing figures over the course of the month. For example, when you decorate put out the manger. Then add the animals, the shepherds, and Mary and Joseph over the course of the month. Finally on Christmas day add Baby Jesus and bring in the Wise Men a few days later. If you want to be a stickler, you can delay the Wise Men until Epiphany (January 6th), but even if you keep your decorations up that long you’ll be taking them down soon after. A fun touch is to have Mary and Joseph, and later the Wise Men, “wander” through the home for a week or so before they “arrive.” An older child can choose where to put them each day while a younger one can have fun trying to find them.

Advent at Fatherhood Etc.

I’ll be doing my part on this blog next month: keeping an online Advent calendar from December 1st (which happens this year to be the Vespers—or eve—of the First Sunday of Advent) through December 25th. Be sure to click on the numbered “windows” each day to receive a musical treat appropriate to that day in the liturgical calendar.

I’ll also be linking to The Advent Conspiracy throughout the season, an ongoing online campaign designed to “turn Christmas upside down (by) worshiping fully, spending less, giving more, (and) loving all.”

Advent is coming. May yours be a blessed one.

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Pop-Pop’s Village

Kristi Funderburk of the DailyJournal.com (Cumberland Co. NJ) describes how a father’s memory has been preserved in an amazing Christmas village:

Spread out across a large board is a tradition built over 30 years; a tradition dubbed “Pop-Pop’s Village” that a son plans to continue in honor of his late father who started it.

Little drummer boys spin in time chiming bells to the tune of classic Christmas carols. Windows on the small collection of houses and stores illuminate a tiny village in wintertime. And everywhere small figurines represent common scenes of the season like bringing home the Christmas tree, building a snowman or buttoning up a child’s coat.

Everything sits on one large board that his father, Charles Bylone, designed so extension cords for each house didn’t ruin the scene by snaking across it.

I had a Christmas village when I was kid. We came across it last year shortly after my mom passed away. I even found the little mirror she gave me for the ice-covered pond.

It was nothing like “Pop-Pop’s Village,” but it brought back some wonderful memories.