What Ever Became of Advent Fasting and Penance? | Community in Mission


Traditionally Advent was a time we would, [as during] Lent, take part in penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence… But long gone are the days of a forty day fast beginning on Nov 12.

Source: What Ever Became of Advent Fasting And Penance? – Community in Mission : Community in Mission

My sense of the situation is that Advent differs from Lent in that it’s a season of joyful anticipation of the Coming (literal meaning of “Advent”) of Christ: both His First Coming, as the Babe of Bethlehem, and his Second Coming, with power and great glory, at the end of time (whatever form that may take). That said, there is also the aspect of penitent preparation for that arrival that we sometimes do miss… and in so doing, I think we lose something important. A very good article! Giants, indeed.


A Clerk of Oxford: The Anglo-Saxon O Antiphons: O Virgo Virginum, Eala wifa wynn


Source: A Clerk of Oxford: The Anglo-Saxon O Antiphons: O Virgo Virginum, Eala wifa wynn

For those following the “Sarum Use,” which began Sapientiatide (the season of the “Great O” Antiphons on the Magnificat) on December 16th instead of 17th, today is the day of “O Virgo Virginum”:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For before you there was none like you, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me?
What you behold is a divine mystery.

O joy of women, beyond the glory of heaven,
most noble virgin through all the corners of the earth
of whom sea-dwellers ever heard tell,
explain to us the mystery which came to you from the skies,
how you ever conceived a pregnancy,
the bearing of a baby, when you never knew
bed-companionship according to the ways of men.
Truly, we have not heard of such a thing
ever occurring in former days,
as that you, with special grace, conceived in this way,
nor should we ever expect that event
to occur again in time.

See also:

The Advent Antiphons: O Virgo virginum

in Wanderings: Pondering the faith in this life of pilgrimage

“Spoiled goodness”: a reflection for Advent II

Found this quote on a friend’s Facebook page, and it sparked some thoughts:

“You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong – only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”

~ CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Lewis (as is generally the case) makes a good point. I am reminded of the premise that evil is not a thing in itself, but rather the absence (or lack) of good, just as darkness is not really a thing in itself, but the absence (or lack) of light. And as the above points out, we can never really be completely evil, because even our most evil actions are predicated on the pleasure or satisfaction they on some level bring to us – and causing enjoyment is itself a good, even if in that case it is fundamentally misdirected (disordered).

So even our worst actions contain a seed of good! Not that that makes them good in and of themselves (they are “spoiled goodness,” as Lewis points out), but it does mean that they – and we – are not utterly and irredeemably evil, contra some radical Protestants (“utter depravity”). That makes sense, if we are indeed created in the image of God, for how could creatures created in the image of Absolute Goodness ever descend to irredeemable badness? That would be, in effect, un-creating us!

As the Eastern Orthodox phrase it, evil effaces, or “paints over,” the image of God within us, but it cannot destroy or remove it. Repentance, such as we should be practicing in the “Little Lent” which is Advent, cleans and restores the image of God within us, which sin has effaced. But just as “there must be something good before it can be spoiled,” so there must be something good before it can be restored. Otherwise would would need to be totally re-created ex nihilo, and thus be something other than we are.

All of which reminds me of one of Ma’s old sayings: “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill-behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us!”

Where did Advent Go? – Maria Von Trapp | Finer Femininity

The events that come to mind when we say “Christmas,” “Easter,” “Pentecost,” are so tremendous that their commemoration cannot be celebrated in a single day each…

Source: Where did Advent Go? – Maria Von Trapp | Finer Femininity

Tomorrow being the First Sunday of Advent, this seemed appropriate!

“The events that come to mind when we say “Christmas,” “Easter,” “Pentecost,” are so tremendous that their commemoration cannot be celebrated in a single day each. Weeks are needed.

First, weeks of preparation, of becoming attuned in body and soul, and then weeks of celebration. This goes back to an age when people still had time–time to live, time to enjoy.

In our own day, we face the puzzling fact that the more time-saving gadgets we invent, the more new buttons to push in order to “save hours of work” – the less time we actually have… 

This atmosphere of “hurry up, let’s go” does not provide the necessary leisure in which to anticipate and celebrate a feast.

But as soon as people stop celebrating they really do not live any more – they are being lived, as it were.”

Worthwhile and challenging words from the matriarch of the real-life Von Trapp Family Singers!

That said, one must also strive to avoid excessive rigorism and rigidity. As one commenter pointed out,

“It’s really difficult to take care of Christmas shopping before Advent. Also, my H thinks it is unnecessarily gloomy to wait to decorate until Christmas Eve, and be associated with non-believers with their dark houses.”

The response was also worthwhile, I think:

“I do understand that. I think each family has to figure out what is best for them while trying to incorporate as many Advent customs as possible. We will listen to Christmas music through Advent but only the classical ones with no words, until closer to Christmas. That’s something we’ve figured out through the years. Only in the past 5 years have I been able to get my gifts before Advent. I think we have to be careful of rigidity….. though pulling back and making it a more spiritual time is always a good thing, if done with charity.”

Indeed so!

I, too, endeavor to listen primarily to instrumental classic Christmas music, and Gregorian chant, along with what Advent music I can find, during that period of preparation and watchful anticipation. But it can be challenging to try to keep Advent — and then to keep Christmas! — in today’s secular and “multi-cultural” world. But then, when has being Christian not been challenging…?