Tuesday, November 14, 2006

End Times

There is significant evidence from the first millenium of the life of the Church that there was originally a seven week season of Advent, at least in some locales. The evidence comes out of the period when the church year was in its development stages. Remants of this can still be seen in the current church year pericopal systems, both the Historic and the Three-Year. Themes for the last three Sundays of the church year are eschatological in nature, that is, they deal with the Day of Judgment and the End of all things. So too, this theme is -- or ought to be -- prominent in Advent, particularly for the Second Sunday in Advent.

Some current pericopal emphases tend to deemphasize this eschatological theme, which is understandable, given the refusal of many churches these days even to acknowledge the teaching of a return of Christ in glory, to say nothing of emphasizing it.

This trend is most notably apparent in places where churches cave in to the demands of some that Christmas preparations provide for the singing of Christmas carols during the Sundays in Advent. One could reason that these demands are better than societal demands for a wholesale removal of Christmas, in favor of nondescript celebrations for the winter solstice or kwanzaa or the latest fad. Better perhaps, but not good enough.

Let Advent be Advent. And let the churches remember the high importance of the eschatological theme for the season. Advent is a time of preparation, to be sure; but what better form of preparation is there for the coming of Christ than penitential hearts? The preparations of the season ought primarily to be penitential preparations for His return.

His coming in grace will be all the more welcomed when the need for it becomes evident to us by the preaching of repentance. Hence also the emphasis of John the Baptist for the latter weeks of Advent. And the liturgical color ought to be purple, the color of penitence, rather than blue, which of late has been called the color of hope or expectation. Actually, blue is supposed to be the Marian color, isn't it?

If we wish to celebrate Christmas aright, it must be as gift for the undeserving; and therefore let us be penitent during these days leading thereto.


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

FWIW, the Orthodox still have a seven week Advent. It starts today...

Fr. Gregory

PS--Congratulations to your son!

Father Eckardt said...

Oh, right. I should have known that.

Peter said...

Yeah. I tried holding off Christmas too, but it's pretty hard to do, and largely unsatisfying. Christmas comes and goes, almost unnoticed, and you never get to sing the Christmas hymns. Or else, you start hearing sermons about the Greek meaning of epiphany, which is, we are told, the Gentile Christmas. Maybe that works in the East, but not so well in the West. Trying to start such a tradition seems a losing and pointless battle.

Advent may be penitential, but its theme is more in tune with the sweetness and longing of "Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel." Pregnancy is a time of joyful anticipation. A time for decorating the baby's room. Why not decorate our houses and churches as well?

Anyway, keep up the good fight. And, in your honor, let me be among the first to wish you a "Merry Christmas," and join in premature singing of carol or two.

Oh yes. And, more significantly, congratulations on your son. What a story. Cherish it.

Daniel Skillman said...

We complain that the Christmas season starts so early at the malls, but then we turn right around and set up Christmas trees in the nave sometime just after Thanksgiving. Maybe earlier. Hypocrisy?

Penitence is a dirty word. Patience is too. Advent calls for both. So, we cruise right past Advent. Deck the halls.

Advent points us to the ascended Christ, the one at the Father's right hand who will come again to judge both the living and the dead. At Christmas, all we have to deal with is a baby. We can change his diapers and tickle his belly. He's the non-confrontational Jesus. In fact, he's the helpless Jesus. That puts us in control. In control of Christ, God, and the universe. Or so we think. So, we skip past Advent and rush on to Christmas because in our heart of hearts we want Jesus to be a baby in need of our help instead of the other way around.

Peter said...

Gee. So cynical about Christmas? A helpless baby is a wonderful message, and a beautiful picture of our God. By coming as a child, He invites our love. Let's not skip Advent, to be sure. But, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater of repentence. Merry Christmas, Dan.

(And, at least the choir gets to practice the Christmas songs in preparation for Christmas. Why not afford the same grace to the folks in the pew?)

Father Eckardt said...

OK, this is a discussion of some interest, I see. So I'll post another item on it . . .