Write me a haiku!
But how long is a haiku?
You breathe in, then out.
Today’s advent calendar element has a child and a dog looking at an upstairs window, looking out on a part of the picture that we haven’t put in yet. I haven’t thought of any songs to go with this bit of the picture, but here is another blog post that I read. It is by Sister Timothy Marie. I don’t know her but she seems like a sensible person, someone worth knowing. She explains about Advent, which is a time of watching and waiting.
You probably don’t like clicking the links, so I’ve pasted the text here:
Advent in Carmel
To experience Advent in Carmel is to enter into a rarified atmosphere that is filled to the brim with Carmel’s living legacy of Advent customs and observances. My first Advent in Carmel remains fresh in my memory today, still as vibrant and alive as when it happened. I feel at a loss, however, to write about it. What words can do justice to a wordless experience?
Well, the most I can do is try my best. So here it is.
To begin with, I’d like to describe what Advent in Carmel is not. It is not playing Christmas music or standing in a long line on Black Friday for the best deals. It is definitely not maxing out a credit card for the many Christmas gifts to be bought and wrapped. It is not listening to commercials assuring us that we really do need whatever each subsequent commercial is offering. It is not a plethora of Christmas parties or expected social evenings with friends. I suppose it suffices to say that Advent in Carmel is not of this world.
Advent is the period time of time right before Christmas—four weeks of waiting in expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Being of Irish descent, I would like to borrow a word from the Gaelic which means “soft” or “gentle.” This word would describe Advent as a soft time of a gently subdued ambiance filled with the expectant desires as each person waits personally and all of us wait together for the coming of the Messiah. It is as if we sit by the window and pull back the curtain just enough to peek out in the sure knowledge that Christ will be walking toward us soon.
This is a good image of Advent in Carmel. To sit quietly at the window, to pull back the curtain and to begin and continue a four week wait right there—close to the window, waiting for Christ. Advent in Carmel is Christo-centric, which means that it is centered in Christ. We listen once again to the ancient prophecies foretelling His coming. As we chant the Divine Office morning, early evening, and at night, we hear the ancient psalms prepare us anew for the Christmas mystery.
Each year, we go deeper into the Mystery.
If you would speak with our sisters personally, you would find out that for many of us, Advent is our favorite time of the entire year
As winter begins to settle on the horizon and inch its way closer to sunny California, Carmelites settle into a meditative frame of mind. We read the prophets, listen to spiritual CDs of the season, and contemplate the sacred mysteries. Because we almost never watch television, we breathe the fresh air of freedom from commercialism. It is so very invigorating. We exhilarate in a new freedom, where life itself moves at a slower pace and the life itself is conducive to going deeper into the Mystery.
We look forward to learning both the ancient chants and the best of our contemporary music. And our hearts are stirred once again as we sing of His coming. Marana tha! When I first entered, it was very different for me to quiet down—both interiorly and exteriorly. This becomes second-nature to someone who has been in the convent for a period of time. And there is something about the silent watching that matures us spiritually. It effects a new depth to our relationship with God and with others.
Waiting and watching.
These words describe Advent in Carmel.
Waiting and watching.
As Advent then draws to a close, we re-enact the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in the beautiful custom of Las Posadas. For many of us this is the pinnacle of the season.
But that’s another story for a later time.
By Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
I’ve posted for this feast before, but today here is a bit of geekishness.
The date of the Annunciation is fixed at 9 months before the date of Christmas (which is, in any case, an ‘official birthday’), by the simple process of keeping the 25 and working 9 months backwards (without allowing for different month lengths), because everybody knows that a pregnancy lasts about 9 months.
However, the average time for pregnancy reckoned from the date of last period (rather than conception, since dates of periods are easier to determine) is actually 40 weeks, which is approximately 9 months and one week. If you assume that Jesus was conceived at the Annunciation (at the time that Mary said yes), then that would (taken the normal times of things) be about 38 weeks. 38 weeks before Christmas day is approximately the 3rd April.
Red Hand Day is a movement to prevent child soldiers. By which it means ‘anybody under the age of 18’ and ‘any form of military activity, whether armed or not’. Obviously, other countries are the worst culprits, and in many countries there is a real problem, but there is also a problem here in England; the Army recruits soldiers at 16 and cadets as young as 12; any kind of cadet force with a military focus is inappropriate. If you teach children that a job in the military is an acceptable career choice, there will be no peace in the world.
Or, if you prefer, the Vigil of Christmas. I give you:
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.
There are many arrangements of this old carol, but I have chosen this one, by P. Stopford:
Wikipedia lists a great many more verses:
You’ll remember I cheated and started the O antiphons one day early. This is because in mediaeval English practice, the O antiphons were begun early, and an extra antiphon was tagged on at the end. England being the Our Lady’s Dowry, we finish the sequence with O virgo virginum (virgin of virgins). This makes the reverse acrostic ‘vero cras’, ‘truly tomorrow’.
- 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.
- In English:
- O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.
- Here is a beautiful setting by Josquin des Prez:
Finally, we reach O Emmanuel (God-with-us, finally pointing straight at the nativity). If you take the first letters of all the O antiphons, you get OOOOOOO, which isn’t helpful, but if you take the first letters of the words after the O, you get sarcore, which is ero cras backwards; ‘ero cras’ is Latin for ‘I will be there tomorrow’.
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Here are the links for the complete set from Charpentier’s settings.
The next O antiphon is O Rex Gentium:
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
Here is a video:
The next O antiphon is ‘O Oriens’. Normally translated ‘morning star’ it really means ‘rising sun’ or ‘day break’. (John and I think the morning star is Venus, which is not the same thing at all.) At this time of year, we really are looking out for a rising sun.
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Morgenstern, Glanz des unversehrten Lichtes: Der Gerechtigkeit strahlende Sonne: O komm und erleuchte, die da sitzen in Finsternis, und im Schatten des Todes.
I list the German words, because Arvo Pärt set the O antiphons in German:
The next antiphon is O Clavis David. After Jesse, comes David, but this also points towards St Peter, as Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom.
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Here is a nice video: