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Advent: The Three Comings of Christ

"In His first coming our Lord came in our flesh and our weakness; in this middle coming He comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and in majesty. Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last." St. Bernard of Clairveaux, Advent Homily

Preparation for Christ

With Advent a new Church year begins. Quite often anymore, family customs and habits trump the liturgical seasons (e.g. vacationing on the High Feast days of our faith). Catholics should strive to create and defend customs that serve the spiritual renewal of their families, especially those leading up to Christmas and Easter. During this season the faithful are exhorted to regard the Three Comings of Christ (History, Mystery, and Majesty):

  1. to prepare themselves worthily to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
  2. thereby to make their souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
  3. so to make themselves ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world.

Blessing of Advent Wreath at All Masses. This attached blessing formula is suitable for home blessings; it also provides information about elements to the wreath. Ideally, the family celebration of the blessing will be linked to a meal on the eve of or on this first Sunday. Prior to the meal, a nice family activity would be to create a wreath with an evergreen bough and the four previously purchased candles (three purple, one pink). The Parish Gift Shop also carries a few prefabricated sets. Holy Water is available in the church. The wreath can be lit at meals or prayer times, with scripture readings and prayers accompanying the lighting of each Sunday's candle.

Outreach Giving Tree
We hope you will join Epiphany Parish in making Christmas merrier for the hundreds of men, women, and children who benefit from the many Outreach programs sponsored by parish. Please take an ornament from the Giving Tree and include a person in need on your Christmas list. Unwrapped gifts (with the Giving Tree ornament firmly attached) may be brought to the Giving Tree. The deadline is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. For more information contact the parish office.

Penance Service
Part of our spiritual preparation for Christmas should involve a serious reflection on our moral and spiritual life. Apart from the daily (except for Sundays) schedule of Confession at Epiphany Parish, the Penance Service adds an important communal dimension to our Advent journey as a people--called to be reconciled and to reconcile.

Christmas Crib
Following a beautiful and firmly rooted tradition, many families set up their Crib immediately after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as if to relive with Mary those days full of trepidation that preceded the birth of Jesus. Putting up the Crib at home can be a simple but effective way of presenting faith, to pass it on to one's children." Pope Benedict XVI, 2005

3rd Sunday of Advent

Gaudete ("Rejoice") Sunday, Blessing of the Christmas Tree at All Masses. In America our tendency is to put up the Christmas tree to early and remove it too soon. A suitable time to erect a Christmas Tree in the home, around a family activity, is Gaudete Sunday, with the attached blessing and illumination for this Sunday only, until Christmas. Then, the tree could remain until Epiphany or the end of the Christmas Season on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the third Sunday after Christmas).

4th Sunday of Advent

This is the final Sunday before Christmas. Families should consider a special activity apart from Mass: a Rosary, a half hour of adoration at church, a visit to the church--something whereby space is created to meditate with Mary the gift coming to the world: Jesus the Lord. A family may also wish to pray the Novena of Christmas beginning on December 17, as a more intense way to prepare for the Nativity.

Other Advent Devotions and Prayers

Liturgy of the Hours

The transition into "deep" Advent on the December 17, is a worthy occasion to take up the Liturgy of the Hours. Like the Mass, it is official public prayer of the Church. It therefore holds pride of place over other devotions. In Advent, from December 17 – 24 inclusive, Morning and Evening Prayer is recommended. For the actual songs, readings and prayers see the Liturgy of the Hours (also called the Divine Office).

Saturday Devotional Masses

Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been approved for use by communities of the faithful. On the Saturdays of Advent, Epiphany Parish is pleased to celebrate these Masses, each with a particular liturgical theme of the Season.

Advent Novenas and Scapular of the Immaculate Conception

On the nine days leading up to and including the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Novena to the Immaculate Conception may be privately recited at the end of all Masses. For those interested in closer devotion to the Blessed Mother, the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception will be imposed on those interested, on the last day of the Novena (see Scapulars in general).

Since the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed on the days leading up to Christmas, Novena for Christmas is recommended for families to pray in their own homes.

The Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is another suitable (and ancient) custom for the family. Throughout Advent, the genealogy of Christ is recalled by the use of a small tree with ornaments placed daily representing his lineage.

office@epiphanyparish.com 1000 East College Avenue, Normal, Illinois 61761 (309) 452-2585