Rorate caeli desuper et nubes pluant Iustum… (Is. 45:8).
The Liturgical year begins with the season of Advent – four weeks that recall the memory of the long period of expectation and preparation that preceded the birth of our Savior.
In the Advent Liturgy, Holy Mother Church places “the prophesies, especially those of Isaiah, under our eyes and causes us to read them again; She puts upon our lips the aspirations and longings of the just men of old time. She wills to see us prepared for Christ’s coming within our souls in the same way as God willed that the Jews should be disposed to receive the Son. ” (Blessed Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries).
The “Great O” Antiphones
The well-loved Advent hymn Veni Veni Emmanual ( O come, O come Emmanuel) is adapted from the “Great O” Magnificat Antiphons traditionally sung at evening prayer from the 17th to the 23rd of December in the Roman Calendar. In the Praemonstratenstian rite, the antiphons begin a day earlier, on the 16th, to make provision for an eight “O” Antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The “O” which begins each Antiphon expresses the longing of the Church for the arrival of the soon-to-be-born Prince of Peace. During all seasons of the Liturgical Year, we can experience the expectation and longing which characterizes Advent by the cultivation of a desire, and even a longing, to receive our Lord often in Holy Communion.
“The Advent wreath, with the progressive lighting of its four candles, Sunday after Sunday, until the Solemnity of Christmas, is a recollection of the various stages of salvation history prior to Christ’s coming and a symbol of the prophetic light gradually illuminating the long night prior to the rising of the Sun of justice (cf. Ml 3,20; Lk 1,78)” (Directory of Popular Piety 98) .
The Proclamation of the Birth of Our Lord
On Christmas eve, the proclamation of the birth of Christ is solemnly chanted from the Roman Martyrology. It is proclaimed in Latin, with all present standing until the words “in Bethlehem Judae” when everyone genuflects and remain knelling until the proclamation is completed. The proclamation recalls all the generations of the world, from the creation up until the time when “in Bethlehem of Judah, having become man, He is born of the Virgin Mary: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH!”
Christmas Eve Procession
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
The Advent Season comes to an end at the commencement of the Christmas Midnight Mass. Just before the Holy Sacrifice begins, sisters process into the choir, with the youngest member of the community in front, carrying the Christ child in her arms. The sisters enter holding candles and singing the Adeste Fidelis (O Come all ye faithful), inviting all souls to come in spirit to the stable in Bethlehem of Judah. There to wait with Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to receive anew into their hearts, our Savior, the newborn Prince of peace.
The Blessed Virgin Mary and Advent
“The Liturgy frequently celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary in an exemplary way during the season of Advent(115). It recalls the women of the Old Testament who prefigured and prophesied her mission; it exalts her faith and the humility with which she promptly and totally submitted to God’s plan of salvation; it highlights her presence in the events of grace preceding the birth of the Saviour”.
Here at the Bethlehem Priory, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) with special solemnity because the Immaculate Virgin Mary, (together with St. Joseph of Bethlehem), is the Patroness of our church and community. We prepare for this great day with the novena to the Immaculate Conception, which begins on November 30th.
“Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain” (From the Office Reading for Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Sermon from Saint Anselm).