Fr. Mike wishes all a merry and Christ-filled Christmas, while singing some Christmas songs in an ugly sweater and doing a bit of a Santa imitation.
Christmas is a time of delight for children and they are excited by everything leading up to this special day. Church attendance is higher at this time of the year when parents see the importance of reconnecting to the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus.Children are involved in art and craft activities and in Christmas plays at school or at their local church. When organising plays, teachers and parents revert to the old trusted Christmas carols to fill in the gaps between scenes but there are many Australian Christmas songs written for exactly these occasions. Children’s songwriters Michael Mangan, Andrew Chinn, John Burland and Monica Brown have all written songs for both Advent and Christmas. These can be used as substitutes to tell the story or be sung alongside traditional carols. Once learnt, these songs can be used year after year.
Below is a list of Advent and Christmas songs written by the songwriters, with the album in which they are found. They have catchy tunes, are easy to teach and can be purchased online. The websites provide samples of each song listed below and some hymns are also listed on the iTunes store. So next time your class or church group suggests a Christmas play, try using some of these songs. They are sure to brighten up your Christmas musical. For added excitement don’t forget to give out the percussion instruments.
|Michael Mangan||Follow the Christmas Star||This is the Time
Sing Your Joy
|Glory to God|
|This Little Boy|
|There is a child|
|Peace on Earth|
|Sing New Songs of Joy||Forever I will Sing|
|Song of Light||Sing Your Joy|
|Andrew Chinn||Under Your Star||Under Your Star
Together As one
|Maranatha||People of Peace|
|Off we go to Bethlehem|
|Carole of the Drum|
|John Burland||Christmas is the Time||Christmas Star|
|Glory to our God|
|No Room for You Tonight|
|Walk on to Bethlehem|
|Christmas Star||Christmas Star|
|Christmas Time||Let's Celebrate
|Happy Birthday Jesus|
- A Child Was Born: A First Nativity Book by Grace Maccarone. Illustrated by Sam Williams.
- The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier.
- Mary’s Song by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn.
- The Nativity from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson.
- Who is Coming to our House? by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff.
- The Nativity Story by Juliet David.
- The Very First Christmas by Juliet David.
- This is The Star by Joyce Dunbar.
- The Nativity by Julie Vivas.
- The Nativity Story by Geraldine McCaughrean. Illustrated by Sophy Williams.
Christmas in Australia
Christmas is the season of peace and joy. All our liturgies and celebrations highlight the joy of Jesus’ birth and the Gospels recall the welcome he received. There are many levels in the Gospel stories of Matthew and Luke that bring to life the story of Jesus’ birth and welcome to our world, in addition there are many images of Christmas in our culture, both the crassly commercial and those that evoke a deeper sense of God’s presence. Many of our children will be the recipients of gifts and expansive parties. Celebration and gift giving are an intrinsic part of our celebration and mirror the gifts of the three wise men. During Advent we remember the journey to Jerusalem and in our churches we make appeals for those who are poor and struggling.God Imaged as Father
Some years ago, after baptising infant twins, a priest was asked to hold one in each arm for a photograph. The mother was attentive but not fussing, asking, “Are you OK to hold them for a little longer.” Holding an infant in each arm means you are totally dependent on someone else taking the babies from you safely. After acting sacramentally in the person of Jesus Christ, baptising the infants, the priest became for those few moments a powerful image of God the Father, creator of new life, present to the world in love and in some ways powerless; not able, by reason of humanities free will, to control the good and evil people do. We name God as Father and pray to God for many things. It can be quite revealing to think through and to meditate on the images we consciously or unconsciously have of God. There are many images in the Scriptures and in our tradition of God the Father’s loving creating presence and there are many other images for God that open our hearts to God’s presence in our world.
God’s Love and Our Response
There is the huge question of God’s love for all children and humanity’s neglect and abuse of children throughout the world. Many children we know and love will celebrate Christmas with joy and plenty, while children in Africa will go hungry, in Syria will hide in basements, in many other places share in the suffering that God does not intend or want but in God’s providence leaves us to resolve. Such images can quickly bring us to despair and a sense of hopelessness, and it is true we cannot change the world but we can do some things. The three kings brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh; part of our Christmas giving can assist the poor in this country and following the call of Pope Francis, we can work to influence our Australian political processes to ensure that we become a more generous country on the international scene. Close to home we can encourage our own children to be generous, especially when they reflect on the possibility of making a difference as they grow and emerge into adulthood. Young doctors from Australia have spent time serving sick in the poorest countries, young people work with the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) and many of our Catholic schools have programs and initiatives that focus on justice for all. As a Church we are called to celebrate and to make a difference.
The World in the Time of Jesus
Some years ago Raymond Brown invited us to see an adult Christ at Christmas. Brown (1988) suggests that even if all we had were the infancy narratives we would have the essential content of the Gospels. Certainly Christmas is a time of joy: the angels sing, the shepherds worship, and the kings come bearing gifts and, inspired by St Francis of Assisi, we construct cribs in our churches and even the smallest children can join in our welcome and worship.
The larger picture the Gospel writers paint is not so extraordinarily different to the pictures we see on our television. The stable as shelter reflects the wretched conditions of many in refugee camps, Herod’s slaughter of the innocent finds almost exact parallels in a number of places mired in war and civil collapse. The flight into Egypt is the same story of many of the refugees and asylum seekers (“boat people”) throughout the world. This is the world into which God the Father sent his beloved Son. This is the world the Father loves with unspeakable love. This is the world where God does not intervene but invites. When we kneel at the Christmas crib it may be that the Father is inviting us to join with Jesus, as he grows and develops, to be agents of peace and bringers of joy; each one of us in our own unique way, walking in the footsteps of Jesus and aware of the Father’s love.
The Gospel for Today
We do need to apply and translate the Gospel message into our culture. This calls for creativity, sensitivity and the capacity to do new things. Bill Gates, perhaps one of the richest men in the world has been engaged in the program of immunisation against polio and other communicable diseases. Because of his wealth and resources he is able to make a huge difference; for some of us a heartfelt prayer and warm smile for a child may be the limits of our capacity. We are all called to share the joy of Christmas and to work for peace and justice in the world. Is that not the reason the Father sent his Son into the world?
The Heart of the Gospel Message
The birth of Jesus Christ is the sign and symbol and reality of God’s love for humanity, of God’s love for the world. The Christmas stories are an invitation to respond to God’s love in our lives. Our first response is always to those nearest and dearest, that is the message of the holy family. Jesus did not begin his public ministry for another thirty years. This speaks to us of the importance of family life and life lived in the simplicity of a village working as a tradesman. Jesus’ public ministry is the culmination and working out of his life journey in obedience to the loving Father who sent him into our world. All of us are invited to share in the joy of Christmas, in recognition of God’s universal love and of God’s loving invitation to each one of us to share life and love.
“Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_%26_Melinda_Gates_Foundation(accessed 24 September 2013).
St Vincent de Paul Society. http://www.vinnies .org.au (accessed 24 September 2013).
Brown, R. E. (1988). An adult Christ at Christmas: essays on the three Biblical Christmas stories – Matthew 2 and Luke 2. Collegeville: Liturgical Press.
Luke’s Infancy Narrative:
Interpreting and Teaching the Kataluma (Luke 2:7)
Around the time of Advent, most religious educators in primary schools teach about the birth of Jesus. In recent years, religious educators have become more cognisant of the differences in the narratives of Luke and Matthew. However, a careful reading of the infancy narratives is important and this article hopes to help religious educators further refine their teaching and learning practices about the infancy narrative in Luke’s gospel. In particular, it seeks to clarify the understanding of the use of the Greek kataluma(NRSV: “the inn”). This term has been misunderstood and this has impacted on teaching and theology in the religious education classroom.
The birth of Jesus is narrated in two gospels, Matthew and Luke. Each account is different from the other. Oftentimes though, the stories are merged together and a type of populist account of Jesus’ birth is recited. In many schools plays are performed, diaramas are made and dress up days are had; however, in the religious education classroom there is a growing need to help students carefully read each text and understand the misconceptions that arise. In Luke’s gospel it is important to stress to the students that Mary and Joseph were not turned away at the inn.
The bible records two distinct accounts of the birth of Jesus. Popular convention and an ignorance of the biblical text have contributed to an inter-mix and harmonisation of the two stories. Brown notes the problem of seeking to harmonise the two texts that are more discordant than harmonic:
Some scholars have tried very hard to reconcile the differences between Matthew and Luke, but with little convincing success. A greater fidelity to Scripture would recognise that the Holy Spirit was content to give us two accounts of the Christmas events, and that the way to interpret them faithfully is to treat them separately. Sometimes the drive to harmonise the two stories arises from the false idea that, since Scripture is inspired, each infancy account must be approached as if it were an exact historical record. (1992, p.2)
Biblical Translations of Luke 2:7
The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New International Version (NIV) and theGood News Bible are commonly used in religious education programs in schools. Before a consideration of the difficulty of understanding kataluma, it is worthwhile to note the three different translations of this verse.
NRSV: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
NIV: “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Good News Bible: “She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to stay in the inn.”
Each translation understands kataluma to mean “the inn”. This poses a problem for classroom religious educators. Young people, and indeed older people, may well be excused for comprehending this term in the literal sense. The task of the school religious educator is to assist students in the way they understand the biblical text. Teaching and learning about the infancy narratives, and the Lukan infancy narrative in particular, can be more refined and sophisticated.
The translation of one word, kataluma (Greek: καταλυματι), found in Luke 2:7, has had a great impact on the interpretation of the infancy narrative in Luke’s gospel. Classroom religious educators should seek to expel myths and expound clarity when teaching Luke’s infancy narrative. In most English translations this word has been translated to “inn”. In an unrefined way, many readers of this text think of an inn as some form of hotel. However, to understand kataluma as “inn” or “hotel” is not a good understanding (Byrne, 2000, p.31).
The term kataluma has been understood differently by various authors. This is not surprising given the difficulty in translating the word from the Greek. Kataluma has been understood as “lodgings”, “khan/caravansary”, “house” and “guest room”. Each is considered below.
Brown (1993, p.400 and 419) opts to understand kataluma as lodgings after reviewing three possibilities for the term: a private home, a room in an unidentified place, and a traveller’s inn. He notes the difficulty in translating the term with reference to katalumarepresenting five different Hebrew terms in the Septuagint (LXX). Brown makes a link between the use of kataluma in Luke 2:7 and its use in Jeremiah 14:8 (LXX) which he also understands to be lodgings. Nevertheless, Brown opts for the term lodgings so that he might “preserve the ambiguity of the original” (1993, p.400).
Ottey (1986, pp.72-73) understands kataluma to mean a form of khan or caravansary. He too considers the LXX translation of two Hebrew terms: mālōn and lĩskāh. Lĩskāh is translated to kataluma sixteen times (Jer 36:12, 20-21; 1 Sam 9:22; 2 Kgs 23:11; 1 Chr 9:33; Ezra 8:29; Neh 10:38, 39; Jer 35:2, 4; 36:10; Ezek 40:17, 38, 44, 45, 46) and refers to a room in the Temple or a royal palace. Ottey suggests they have a cultic purpose (p.73). Mālōn is translated to kataluma six times in the LXX (Gen 42:27; Exod 4:24; Josh 4:3; 2Kgs 19:3; Isa 10:29 and Jer 9:2). With the exception of 2 Kgs 19:3, where the meaning is obscure, the meaning in these texts is a place for travellers to stop and rest. It offered shelter for travellers and a place for their animals. There was no service in the caravansary; travellers had to provide for themselves (Ottey, 1986, p.72). Ottey opts for themālōn meaning in Luke 2:7. He suggests that Luke is referring to a form of caravansary and not a form of inn which is probably suggested by Luke in 10:34 (the Good Samaritan story) with the use of pandochein. Ottey goes on to suggest that Jesus was most likely born in an animal shelter belonging to a peasant farmer or possibly a cave. The idea that Joseph and Mary found secure shelter in a khan or caravansary is shared by Byrne (2000, p.31) and Horsley (1989, p.104). Both note the use of pandochein in Luke 10:34 to refer to an inn and suggest that if Luke had meant an inn, he would have used this word.
Different again, is the understanding of the term kataluma proposed by Kerr (1991, p.15). He proposes that Luke’s use of this term means a house and possibly a guest room. Kerr considers three possible meanings of kataluma in the LXX. First, it can mean God’s dwelling place (2 Sam 7:6). Second, it refers to the dining hall in Samuel’s house (1 Sam 9:22). Third, it is the lodging place where Moses stayed in his travels to Egypt (Exod 4:24). Kerr concludes, although without certainty, that the second option is perhaps the most likely. He does qualify it by suggesting that Luke is not necessarily referring to a dining hall but rather a room in a house. Like Ottey, he rejects kataluma referring to an inn by noting Luke’s use of pandochein in 10:34 to refer to such a place.
The Design of First Century Palestinian Houses
Bailey seeks to “demonstrate that the place was likely a private home in the village, and may have been a cave” (2008a, p.2). He also suggests it may well have been a guest room attached to a private home (2008b, p.33). In support of this, he notes the Middle Eastern custom of hospitality. Joseph, returning to his village of origin would have had no problem getting accommodation in one of many homes in Bethlehem (Bailey, 2008b, p.25). He also adds, “[t]he idea that a woman about to give birth cannot find shelter and assistance from the village women in a Middle Eastern village, even if she is a total stranger, staggers the imagination” (2008a, p.2). Bailey also discusses the design and purpose of village homes. Most, he argues, consisted of one room divided into two parts, one part a few steps lower than the other. The upper section was primarily the family living area where people “cooked, ate, slept and lived” (2008b, p.28) and the lower section was for housing the family animals during the night. Having the animals and the people under the one roof provided security for the peasant farmer because it reduced the chances that the animals would be stolen. Also, the animals tended to warm up the room. Johnson describes the purpose of similar peasant housing, albeit in lower Galillee, “[t]he enclosed family rooms were used for sleep and sex, giving birth and dying, and taking shelter from the elements” (2004, p.143). Johnson also notes that most families had a small space or house of one or two rooms.
Marshall (1978) also suggests that a room in a private house is the most likely place of birth, “καταλυμα, ‘lodging’ can be used of a guest-room… so that the reference may be to a room in a private house rather than to a room in an inn” (p.107).
Implications for the Classroom Religious Educator
It is an imperative that religious educators remain cognisant of the scriptural text. A cursory analysis of the texts above reveals the danger in deviating from the Scriptures. Namely, students are taught the wrong story. It is more plausible that Luke knows that there was no urgency to Mary’s pregnancy, as this is not stated in the text.Giving birth in first century Palestine, young females are surrounded by family members helping the young woman bring life into the world. Hence, it is plausible then that the birth did take place in the main room of the house as discussed above, and the child was placed in the manger.
When teaching Luke’s infancy narrative, classroom religious educators must be clear about the message of the story. The students should be introduced to the contextual analysis of the ways of living to help bring clarity and understanding to the story. Students should use an effective translation of the gospel, preferably NSRV and teachers should not rely on picture books to tell the infancy narrative story.
Students should be taught with clarity that the author of the gospel of Luke has Jesus born in the main room of the house. Any learning activities that involve motels, inn-keepers, sons of inn-keepers and stables “not far away” should be avoided. These popular ‘Hallmark greeting card’ additions are not mentioned in Luke. It is important to be explicit about this. Students could investigate the lifestyle and culture of first century Palestinian families. Jesus is not born in a palace, not even in his own home, not even in the guest room of his relative’s home, but in the common room of a small peasant home, in a small, relatively insignificant town, in an out of the way corner of the world.
It is important to teach one infancy narrative at a time. Certainly teachers should avoid teaching about the nativity by blending both the Matthean and Lukan stories.
Alexander, P. and Evans, L. (Eds.). (1981). The lion children’s bible. Tring: Lion.
Bailey, K. E. (2008a). “The Manger and the Inn”. Associates for Biblical Research.(accessed 23 June 2009) http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/11/The-Manger-and-the-Inn.aspx
Bailey, K. E. (2008b). Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes: Cultural studies in the gospels. London: SPCK.
Brown, R. E. (1992). “The story of Christmas: What do the gospels say?” Inform: Current thinking on Catholic issues. (31), 1-4.
Brown, R. E. (1993). The birth of the messiah: A commentary on the infancy narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. New York: Doubleday.
Byrne, B. (2000). The hospitality of God: A reading of Luke’s gospel. Strathfield: St Pauls Publications.
Haight, R. (2000). Jesus: Symbol of God. Maryknoll: Orbis Books.
Horsley, R. A. (1989). The liberation of Christmas: The infancy narratives in social context. New York: Crossroad.
Johnson, E. A. (2004). Truly our sister: A theology of Mary in the communion of saints. New York: Continuum International.
Jozef Wilkon (illustrator). (1983). No room at the inn. London: Abelard/North-South.
Julie Vivas (illustrator). (1986). The nativity. Malvern: Omnibus Books.
Kerr, A. J. (1991). “No room in the kataluma”. The Expository Times, 103, 15-16.
Marshall, I. H. (1978). The gospel of Luke: A commentary on the Greek text. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.
Meier, J. P. (1991). A marginal Jew. (Vol. 1). New York: Doubleday.
Ottey, J. L. (1986). “In a stable born our brother”. The Expository Times, 98, 71-73.
Stories and Symbols
CREATION(earth and moon over water)Genesis 1:1–2:4
ADAM AND EVE (fruit, tree, snake)Genesis 3: 12–4
NOAH (ark, rainbow)Genesis 6:5–9:17
ABRAHAM (stars)Genesis 12:1–7; 15:1–6
SARAH (tent)Genesis 18:1–15; 21:1–7
JACOB (ladder of angels)Genesis 25:19–28; 27:1–29; 28:10–22
RACHEL AND LEAH ( three hearts intertwined)Genesis 29; 30: 1–24; 35:16–20
JOSEPH (12 brothers, coat)Genesis 37–46
MOSES AND MIRIAM (ten commandments, baby in basket)Exodus 2:1–10; 14:15–16; 15:20–21; 16:1–3; 31:18
RUTH (wheat or barley sheaves)The Book of Ruth
SAMUEL (temple)1 Samuel 1:1–11; 3:1–20
DAVID (harp)1 Samuel 16; 17:1–50; Psalm 23
SOLOMON (crown)1 Kings 3:4–28; 5:9; 6:7;10:1–13
ELIJAH (raven, chariot)1 Kings 17:1–24; 18:20–46; 2 Kings 2:1–13
ISAIAH (tongs of fire and coal)Isaiah
JONAH (fish/whale and ship)Book of Jonah
ESTHER (jewels)Book of Esther
TOBIAS (angel, fish)Book of Tobit
ELIZABETH AND ZECHARIAH (incense burner, angel)Luke: 5–14
MARY (rose or Mary on a donkey)Luke 1:26–38
JOSEPH (hammer, saw, carpentry tools)Matthew 1: 18–25
JESUS (star, stable, manger)Luke 2: 1–20
Reference: All stories and symbols are available for use and photocopy in Meeting Jesus Through the Jesse Treeby Ann, E. Neuberger (Garratt Publishing).
HOW TO USE THE JESSE TREE
1. Choose the bible stories relevant for the age group.
2. The Story:
Discuss what happened to the people in that bible story.
3. Special Qualities:
What qualities or ‘traits’ did those people have that made them special. For example, Moses was true to God’s laws. He had total trust in what God told him.
What did the person in the story achieve?
(a)Write a reflection on what we learnt from the person and how grateful we are for their [qualities] Eg. Daniel had courage being in the lion’s den. What was their gift to us?
(b) Write a reflection on what you learnt from one of the members of your family tree. What was his or her gift to you?
(a) Illustrate an appropriate symbol for each bible story.
(b) Illustrate an appropriate symbol of your ancestor. For example, if it was your great grandfather in the war, then perhaps a war medal would be a good symbol.
(c) Make a symbol of yourself and hang it on a branch of the Jesse tree. What branch are you on?
Copied from http://remail.garrattpublishing.com.au/issue-3-christmas/primary
The Christmas Crib tradition
Christmas according to kids…
What happens when you ask a bunch of kids to tell the story of Christmas? Enjoy these stores of Bethle-ha-ha-ham and the magical star that appeared.
Why do we fast? Fr. Mike explains that it’s not about getting more love and attention from God. Fasting is about self-mastery, discernment, sacrifice, and being a co-redeemer with Jesus. In this video, Fr. Mike dives deeper into these four reasons, helping you make the most of your fasting this Lent.
Stations of the Cross for Children
On Plam Sunday Jesus rides into Jerusalem seated on a donkey. He comes in humility, and as a man of peace. His arrival in Jerusalem is joyuously greeted by the people shouting, “Hosannna. Blessings on the king who comes …”, and waving palm branches that are symbols of victory. The people had long awaited the coming of a Messiah who would be king in the style of King David. A great and powerful warrior who would come triumphantly into Jerusalem leading a conquering army and rid the Israelities of the Roman occupation.
Rather, this Messiah comes as the humble servant, who washes the feet of his disciples, who asks them to do likewise, and to remember him in the breaaking of bread and sharing of wine . Jesus had given of himself totally throughout his life . He had touched and healed the unclean, the poor and the sick; he forgave and restored people to their communities such actions were seen by some as false teaching, as undermining the law and as threatening those in power. So he is killed on Good Friday.
Holy Saturday, which is the Sabbath day, a day of rest for the Jewish people, when no work is done is the day when Jesus’ body ‘rests’ in the tomb. So ends a week of love, service, dedication and generosity, so ends a life given in total love, service, dedication and generosity.
For forty days , during Lent, we prepare to celebrate at Easter the new life of the Risen Jesus. Prayer, fasting and almsgivng , or giving to the poor are traditional practices of preparation. The liturgical colour of the season is purple, a colour of repentance.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent.
Three Amazing Tips for an Amazing Lent
Ash Wednesday is one of two days of fast and abstinence set down by the Church, the other being Good Friday.
In current Catholic practice, fasting means having one full meal a day. Smaller quamties of food may be eaten at two other meals but no food should be consumed at any other time during the day.
Abstinence is the practice of abstaining from the use of certain kinds of food. From early Christian times, hermits practised abstinence.
St Anthony and his followers, for example, abstained from all food except bread, salt and water. So Shrove Tuesday was the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes were eaten on this day because they contained fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.
After Second Vatican Council the often complicated rules concening fasting and abstinence were simplified while the continuing need for such practices was re-emphasied. The use of other forms of penance , particularly works of charity or piety, was also encouraged.
the present laws took effect in 1966. The law of fasting applies to people from 18 to 59 years old. Everyone from the age of 14 years and older is bound by the law of abstinence from meat.
The spirit of the law may invite us to extend the fast to things other than food – text messaging, surfing the net, gambling, or gossiping. The minimum fasting requiremants make most sense when they are combined with prayer and almsgiving. these age-old disciplines reflect our most fundamental concerns: our rleationship with God (prayer), with our bodies (fasting) and with others (almsgiving).The Ashes.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolise penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on God with repentant hearts.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the pentitents were turned out of the church because of their sins. The pentitents did not enter the church again untill Maundy (Holy) Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion.
Two forms of words are provided for the giving of the ashes: the old formula ‘Remember you are dust…’ and ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.’ The first is a clear reminder of our morality; the second an unambiguous call to conversion and gospel living. The later form is more likely to resonate with today’s spiritualtiy.
Did you know?
Lent is the only liturgical season that begins on a weekday. Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast, occurring 46 days before Easter.
Stations of the Cross
The 14 Stations of the Cross represent events from Jesus’ passion and death. At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.
1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death.
Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.
2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross.
Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.
3. Jesus Falls the First Time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross.
4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother.
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.
5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross.
Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.
6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus Falls a Second Time.
Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.
8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.
9. Jesus Falls the Third Time.
Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.
10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments.
The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.
11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross.
Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.
12. Jesus Dies on the Cross.
After suffering greatly on the cross, Jesus bows his head and dies.
13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross.
The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.
14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb.
Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.
The closing prayer—sometimes included as a 15th station—reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In this video, Dr. Pitre gives insight into the Biblical foundation for Ash Wednesday, as well as the rationale and purpose of the season of Lent. He addresses questions such as:
• Why do you we use ashes?
• Why are we asked of the Church to increase our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving during Lent?
• Is Lent just about abstaining from a favorite food, or is there something more to it?
Easter Season Symbols
Today, the second Sunday of Easter, is the final day of the Easter octave. These eight days are important in the church calendar and rank more highly than solemnities in the table of liturgical days. In the early Church, the newly initiated wore their white baptismal garments in public for the entire time. In Tertullian’s community they even abstained for a whole week from their daily bath!
It is helpful to think of the season of Easter as part of ninety-three days which lie at the heart of the liturgical year. This period consists of forty days of preparation for Easter during Lent, the three-day Easter Triduum and fifty days continuing celebration in the Easter season.
Eastertime is the ideal time for parishes to hold confirmations, first communions, infant baptisms (which ideally have been held over from Lent), rites of commissioning for liturgical ministers and the anointing of the sick. These ceremonies celebrate our Lenten conversion, unfold the wonders of Easter, and show in practice our belief that Jesus is truly risen and present with us.
The unity of the Easter season and its link with the Easter Vigil is seen in the worship environment. Banners, hangings and other artistic creations for the Vigil remain in place until Pentecost. The central symbols of water and light are used throughout the fifty days. The paschal candle is placed near the ambo or altar until Pentecost and is lighted during liturgical celebrations to remind us that Christ is indeed our light. It may be processed to the font for baptisms and then returned to its stand. After Pentecost evening prayer, it is placed next to the font for the rest of the year.
The use of the rite of sprinkling is very appropriate in the Easter season as it powerfully and tangibly reminds us of the Vigil and initiation. The baptismal font may be highlighted by placing it near the entry into the worship space or in the centre of the assembly, if moveable, or by decorating it with greenery if not.
The document on the liturgical year says that the fifty days of the Easter season are “the days for the singing of the Alleluia”. Eastertime presents us with great reasons to greet the gospel with special joy in song. If ever eucharistic acclamations were to be shouts of joy, it is now! The hymns of the Easter season liturgies are filled with alleluia and praise as the church proclaims the hope of resurrection.
Early Christians called Eastertime “the Sunday of the year” as it is to the whole year what Sunday is to the week, that is, one-seventh. It is a time for celebrating our new life in Christ and our participation in the paschal mystery. It is fifty days, but it is really one day – the Great Sunday.
We praise you with greater joy than ever in this Easter season, when Christ became our paschal sacrifice.
The Roman document on the liturgical year says that these fifty days “are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one great Sunday.”
Perhaps the best way to understand the Easter season is to consider it as an overflow of the Vigil and a time for unfolding the Easter mysteries. During the fifty days the Church continues to instruct the newly initated about the faith which they they have embraced. For these people it is the period of mystagogy when the “spiritual and heavenly mysteries of the Church are explained”. At the same time all members of the community are called to reflect on the meaning of their own baptism and to celebrate the conversion which has happened during Lent. Together we focus on living our faith, on the meaning of the eucharist and the power of the Spirit in our lives, the challenge to respond to ministry in the Church and our responsibilty to witness to the risen Lord in the world.A powerful symbol used throughout the Easter season is the Paschal Candle. In the early centuries practical necessity required the lighting of a fire and lamps to provide light. This simple necessity easily took on a solemnity and the natural symbolism of fire and light was expanded to include a reference to religious truths. The lighted Paschal Candle became a symbol of Christ, Light of the world. In the blessing of the candle, a cross is traced on it. The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, Alpha and Omega, are added above and below; then around the centre, the numbers of the current year. While making the sign, the priest says, “1. Christ yesterday and today, 2. the beginning and the end, 3. Alpha 4. and Omega, 5. all time belongs to him, 6. and all the ages 7. to him be the glory and power, 8. through every age for ever. Amen.” Five grains of incense are placed in the Cross to represent the five wounds of Jesus. As the priest lights the Candle from the new fire he says, “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds. (Diocese of Broken Bay, Lent and Easter units)
Pascha was the annual commemoration of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection corresponding with our Easter Triduum.
Pentecost was a fifty-day festival immediately following Pascha. The title Pentecost was carried over from Judaism by the early Christians. The Jewish Feast of Weeks, referred to in the books of Exodus and Leviticus, celebrated the completion of the grain harvest. Because it was held 50 days after Passover, it was given the name Pentecost (the fiftieth day) in Greek.“From the day after the Sabbath you shall count off seven weeks. You shall count until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord.” (Lev 23: 15-16)Our current liturgical calendar calls this fifty-day post-Easter period Easter Time. (I prefer the term “Easter Season” by which it was previously known because I believe that most people understand “Easter Time” as meaning only the Holy Thursday-Good Friday-Easter Day period or Triduum.) The name “Pentecost” is now used to refer just to the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday and not to the whole fifty -day period.Writing in the year 205, the African Church Father Tertullian describes this fifty-day period as second only to Easter Day itself as the preferred time for initiation into the Church:“After Pascha, Pentecost is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms; wherein the resurrection of the Lord was repeatedly proven among the disciples and the hope of the advent of the Lord indirectly pointed to.”In another work, Tertullian emphasises that the spirit of this season is one of rejoicing: “We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s Day to be unlawful. We enjoy the same privilege also from Easter to Pentecost”.This same understanding is to be found in these words from Augustine nearly two hundred years later: “During Pentecost let no one fast or kneel, for they are days of rest and joy. Let those who carry the burdens of labour refresh themselves a little in the days of Pentecost.”In his work Life of Constantine (around 338) Eusebius makes reference to the season:“All these events occurred during a most important festival, I mean the august and holy solemnity of Pentecost, which is distinguished by a period of seven weeks, and sealed with that one day on which the holy Scriptures attest the ascension of our common Saviour into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit among men”.It is not until the end of the fourth century that the first evidence is found of the Ascension being given its own separate day of commemoration: “From the first Lord’s day count forty days, from the Lord’s day till the fifth day of the week, and celebrate the feast of the ascension of the Lord.” (Apostolic Constitutions)In this “week of weeks” (the Easter Season is seven weeks long) we sing our Alleluias, to the risen Christ.
After the feast of Pentecost which fell on June 11, the Church’s liturgical calendar changed from the Season of Easter to Ordinary Time. Many people might have missed this fact because the liturgical colour for Ordinary Time – green – is not used on the first two Sundays of this phase of the season. The Easter colour of white is continued because two solemnities – Holy Trinity and The Body and Blood of Christ – are celebrated on the Sundays following Pentecost.
The name “Ordinary Time” for that part of the church year outside the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter is perhaps rather an unfortunate term. The word “ordinary” commonly means something that is unexceptional or uninteresting. However, the word “ordinary” as used in “Ordinary Time” means that the Sundays after the seasons of Christmas and Easter are counted in order, using ordinal numbers.
It is best to think of Ordinary Time as one of the liturgical seasons – the longest season of the church year. Its liturgical colour of green points to our Christian hope and life, entering into the mystery of Christ in all its fullness.
As Christians, Sunday is our original feast day – the day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and our participation in the paschal mystery. Feasts of local saints and other celebrations began to take over the Sunday celebration of the paschal mystery during the Middle Ages. By the time of Pius X in the early 1900’s the Sunday Mass texts were rarely used. After Vatican II the new Sacramentary restored the central place of Sunday in the celebration of each week and the primacy of Ordinary Time as a whole.
Ordinary Time is simply the way the Church marks time, Sunday after Sunday, gathered to celebrate the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. Ordinary Time enables the Christian community to witness to the presence of the risen Jesus in the community of faith.
Parish liturgy groups, which have been very busy preparing for Lent and Easter, might be tempted to take a breather from planning once Ordinary Time begins. However, there is no such thing as “ordinary time” in Christian worship. While music and decorations used during the high season of the Church year will be scaled down, the basic principles of good liturgy remain – scripture readings that are well prepared and proclaimed, large liturgical symbols that speak clearly of the meaning they carry, music that supports the rites, etc.
It would be a pity, for example, if a parish which has been singing the psalm during Lent and Easter were to revert to saying the psalm again. Just as the Lectionary gives the option of common psalms for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, there are possibilities for common sung psalms to be used during Ordinary Time so that the music leaders and the people don’t have to tackle a new setting every week.
This quieter time of the year also gives the liturgy committee an opportunity to evaluate the parish’s normal patterns of Sunday worship and to find ways of enhancing the Sunday celebrations. A committee might review, for example, the parish music repertoire, or liturgical space, or the recruitment and training of liturgical ministers.
Ordinary Time enables us to devote ourselves to exploring the mystery of Christ in all its aspects and to celebrate the presence of God in the ordinary patterns of human life.