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Weekly Bulletin December 10, 2023
by Terrie Evans
On this 2nd Sunday of Advent (Latin – for Arrival), the Bethlehem Candle will be lit as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus and ready ourselves for His 2nd coming. These flames symbolize the celebration of light in the middle of darkness with the purple candles representing the penitential spirit of humility, solemnity and suffering with the pink or rose candle signifying the joy of Christ’s birth. Advent is thought to be in existence since 480 and was introduced by the Council of Tours in 567 as a way to order monks to practice a fast every day during the month of December until Christmas Day. It was associated with the penitence fasting known as St. Martins Lent or the Nativity Fast. In the 5th Century, Bishop Perpetuus started Advent with St. Martins Day on November 11th fasting three times a week until Christmas. Advent was then called the Lent of St. Martin in the diocese of Tours, a practice that was in existence until the 6th Century. Eastern Orthodox Churches will mark the time before the start of Advent with a Nativity Fast from November 15th until Christmas Eve on December 24th. The traditional color used for Advent is violet although some Christian denominations now use blue as an alternative color. The custom for using the blue color for Advent has been traced back to the 8th Century in the Church of Sweden. The Second Sunday of Advent Prayer: “Father in Heaven, who sent your Son to redeem the world, and will send him again to be our judge. Give us the grace to imitate Him in the humility and purity of His first coming that, when He comes again, we may be ready to greet Him with joyful love and firm faith. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
On Monday, December 11th we celebrate the life of Pope Damasus I, the Bishop of Rome from 366 until his death in 384. He presided over the Council of Rome in 382 establishing the official list of Sacred Scripture. He worked to reconcile relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Antioch while feeling a deep responsibility to work for the veneration of Martyrs. Damasus I became active in defending the Catholic Church against (schisms) the deliberate break from ecclesiastical unity. In the two Roman synods of 368 and 369, Pope Damasus I sent legates (ambassadors of the Pope) to the First Council of Constantinople to addresses the heresies against the teachings of the Church. During his 18 years as a Pope, Damasus worked to restore and create access to Christian Martyrs tombs in the Catacombs of Rome by setting up tablets and composing verses and inscriptions in honor of those martyrs. He rebuilt the church of his father, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls) which became a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman Martyrs. Pope Damasus I’s life mission coincided with the rise of Emperor Constantine I with the reunion of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires and the legitimization of Christianity. In 380, Christianity was later adopted as the official religion of the Roman State. On December 12, we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared in 1531, before St. Juan Diego, an Aztec who converted to Christianity. When the Virgin appeared in a vision, she requested a church be built on the site. The Virgin of Guadalupe was named the Patroness of Mexico in 1737, of the Continental Americas and venerated by Native Americans. There are religious images of Our Lady of Guadalupe in many Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist Churches due to her popularity. She has been described as a representative of the Immaculate Conception “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars.” In 1754, Pope Benedict XIV approved her patronage over the New Spain and granted her a proper feast for December 12th. In 1910, Pope Pius X named Our Lady of Guadalupe the Patroness of Latin America and in 1935, Pope Pius XI approved her as Patroness of the Philippines. During Mexico’s Independence, her image became associated with the movement after Father Miguel Hidalgo united insurgents under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe and many women throughout the world have developed a strong devotion to her. The National Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe has received visits from many dignitaries from all Christian Denominations with Pope John Paul II visiting in 1979,1990, 1993,1999 and in 2002 for the Canonization St. Juan Diego. In 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the main altar of the Basilica of Guadalupe. Her significance as a religious national symbol is practiced by the hundreds of thousands who visit her Shrine every year. In the suburb of Maderia in Cincinnati, women meet every month for the Las Guadalupanas Spanish Rosary Group at St. Gertrude Church to represent our Lady’s patronage of the Americas. On December 13th we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy (Lucia) (283-304), who is seen as a bearer of light in the darkness of winter. She is one of 8 women along with the Virgin Mary who is commemorated by Catholics in the Canon of the Mass. St. Lucy is one of the more known Virgin Martyrs among Agatha of Sicily, Agnes of Rome, Cecilia of Rome, and Catherine of Alexandria. Since her feast coincides with the Winter Solstice, her feast day has become a festival of light as a Catholic -celebrated holiday with its roots traced to Sicily. There is a legend in Sicily that a famine ended on her feast day when ships loaded with grain entered the harbor. It is a tradition to eat whole grains on her feast day to honor her and in areas throughout Italy, large traditional feasts will take place with homemade pasta and a special dessert called Cuccia made of wheatberries, butter, sugar, chocolate, and milk will be served. The large grains of soft wheat represent Lucy’s eyes and are only served once a year on her feast day. An old Hungarian custom is to plant wheat in a small pot on her feast day and by Christmas, green sprouts, a sign of new life will appear. The wheat will be added to the manger scene as the symbol of Christ in the Eucharist. There are 83 churches throughout the world named in her honor with 16 schools, and 30, towns, villages, mountains, islands, and malls bearing St. Lucy’s name. There is also a country, St. Lucia and a railway station Venezia Santa Lucia in Venice, Italy named for her. A prayer to St. Lucy to invoke the protection of our eyes: “Relying on Your goodness, O God, we humbly ask You, through the intercession of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, to give perfect vision to our eyes, that they may serve for Your greater honor and glory. Saint Lucy, hear our prayer and obtain our petitions. AMEN.”
On Thursday, December 14th, we celebrate the feast of John of the Cross (1542-1591), a 16th Century Spanish priest, Mystic, and a Carmelite Friar. He joined the Carmelites at Medina and in 1567, worked with St. Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite Monasteries of Spain and went on to establish the 1st reformed house for men. He became known for his writings, the Spiritual Canticle and The Dark Night of the Soul considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry, rich in symbolism and imagery. He also wrote The Ascent of Mount Carmel about a soul seeking a perfect union with God and all the mystic events he encounters along the way, the journey of the soul from its bodily home to his union with God. Between 1574-1577 John of the Cross had visions of the Crucified Christ which led him to create a drawing of Christ from above. The drawing was kept in a small monstrance in Avila that would later inspire Salvador Dali to create the work Christ of Saint John of the Cross in 1951. John of the Cross born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez died on December 15, 1591, was beatified by Pope Clement X in 1675 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. He wrote: “Seek in reading and thou shall find meditation”. And “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” His major shrine is the Tomb of Saint John of the Cross in Segovia, Spain. He is the Patron of Spanish Poets, one of the 37 Doctors of the Church who is known as the “Mystical Doctor.
Friday, December 15th is the Last day of Hanukkah (Zos Hanukah) a special day that encapsulates all of Hanukah as all candles are lit to symbolize Jewish Piety. St. Francis Seraph Church at the corner of Liberty and Vine Street in Over the Rhine is celebrating a Franciscan Christmas displaying Nativities from Around the World, a Live Nativity, and other Christmas Displays. The live Nativity is open from 1-7PM Daily and Nativities from other countries with Christmas Displays that will be open Monday -Thursday 9:00AM-5:00PM, Fridays 4:00-7:00PM, Saturdays Noon-7:00PM, and Sunday Noon-5:00PM. This event is open until January 6th with free admission as donations will be accepted in support of St. Francis Parish and School. There will be free parking in the lot behind the school at 14 East Liberty Street. This is a wonderful Holiday event provided by the Franciscan Order who have supported San Antonio Church since its founding in 1922.
Next Sunday, December 17th, the Catholic Church celebrates Gaudete Sunday, the halfway point of Advent when we light the rose hued candle. On December 24th, the last Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, San Antonio Church will bless the baby Jesus’s from our home mangers on Bambinelli Sunday. Please bring in your baby Jesus’s for this special blessing. This is an annual Papal tradition that will take place in St. Peters Square on this last Sunday of Advent.