One of the best things about our Catholic faith is how it encompasses such a wide range of traditions and practices that all of them are reminiscent of the one faith we profess.
For example, I am a Catholic priest who belongs to what is called a personal ordinariate, a structure equivalent to a diocese set up to welcome former Anglicans (sometimes called Episcopalians) into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Thanks to the 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus”, those who join the Catholic Church in these ordinariates are allowed to maintain certain liturgical, spiritual and pastoral elements of the Anglican tradition. For example, in the ordinaries we worship according to our own liturgical books under the title “Divine Worship,” which contain many beautiful prayers and texts from Anglican heritage and its 500-year-old English-language liturgy.
This means that the way we celebrate Advent is a little different from that of other Catholics, but many of our distinctive ways of worship can enrich the prayer and devotion of other Catholics as well.
To begin with, in our morning and evening prayers during Advent, we do not recite the great hymn of praise, the “Te Deum”, what is said most of the time in our tradition. Instead, we replace the “Te Deum” with the “Benedicite”. It is the “Song of the Three Children” taken from the Book of Daniel.
Because it refers to the natural order, it is sometimes also called a song of creation and its place in Advent recalls the words of Pope Francis in “Laudato S.I’“(” Praise be to you “): the incarnation means” the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden way in the natural world as a whole “. Perhaps praying this text in the natural darkness of the winter months can instill in us a greater sense that in Christ all creation is redeemed and made new.
For morning and evening prayer, we also usually pray much longer Scripture passages than those you may be familiar with in the Liturgy of the Hours. In the morning and evening, we usually read one chapter from the Old Testament and one chapter from the New Testament. On the first Sunday of Advent, we begin a continuous reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
It goes until Christmas Eve, so we hear throughout Advent the old prophetic call to wait with hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Perhaps repeating this Isaiah reading pattern could be a way for you to hear again the promise and hope that Advent brings.
This hope is also expressed in Advent in our meditation on the last four things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. It is therefore also a time in our tradition when we are encouraged to pray to a Special Office for the Dead. Looking ahead to Advent, throughout the month of November, we think and pray for our beloved deceased. As we reflect on the last four things of Advent, divine worship encourages us to add the Office of the Dead to our devotions to keep these themes alive.
In the two divine cults and the Roman Advent Missal, we also hear a number of prayers that begin with the Latin phrase “Excita, Domine! This is translated into English as “Stir up, O Lord!” And it is a constant trope of the Advent liturgy.
In England, this phrase was traditionally heard on the Sunday before Advent, which we now celebrate as the feast of Christ the King. This gave birth to the name “Stir Up Sunday”, not only because of the call to stir up our hearts, but because hearing this prayer for the first time would remind people to go home after church and stir Christmas pudding in preparation for the feast to come!
Two other texts are also popular in the ordinaries during this season. The first is the “Litany”, often sung in procession on the first Sunday of Advent to mark the beginning of the liturgical year. This echoes the ancient Roman tradition of chanting the “Litany of Saints” on certain days of penance like Ash Wednesday; a practice we still see in the papal liturgy. In the “Litanies”, we invoke God to help us on our pilgrimage through Advent and towards Christmas.
The other is the “Advent Prose”. It talks about the coming of Jesus using themes found in Isaiah’s prophecy and brought together in a poetic text that is said to have been written in Latin in the fourth century. The text was rediscovered by Anglicans in the 19th century and was translated into English, becoming popular as a simple song to be sung in place of hymns during Advent. He begins: “Descend the heavens from above, and the heavens pour out righteousness! “
The Anglican tradition is also known for its rich musical heritage, which particularly stands out during Advent. Hymns such as “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” by Charles Wesley eagerly await the coming of Christ at the end of time, while the familiar accents of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” seem to combine both our longing for Christ’s second coming at the end of time with the joy of his first at Christmas.
However, we keep Advent in our own tradition, the beauty of the Catholic religion is that it encompasses a wide range of customs and practices which all evoke the one faith that we profess. These traditions in “small T” are all part of the only Tradition in “capital T” proclaimed by our Catholic faith. As we seek to learn from one another through the richness of these diverse gifts, I invite you on this Advent to discover the beauty of what the Church has to offer in personal ordinariates and, in so doing, to know the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
What is a personal ordinariate?
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI published the apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus”. As the name suggests, this allows “groups of Anglicans” (sometimes called Episcopalians) to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict, in unison with the ecumenical vision of the Second Vatican Council, recognized that “some, and indeed many, of the significant elements and endowments which, together, help to build up and give life to the Church itself. even, may exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church. “
Recognizing this, “Anglicanorum Coetibus” provides for personal ordinarias. They are structures equivalent to dioceses, which allow former Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church individually and collectively. Three of these ordinaries exist, and here in the United States, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established in 2012. It is based in Houston and has parishes across North America.
In addition to receiving people in the Catholic Church, “Anglicanorum Coetibus” goes even further in its generous welcome. Certain elements of the Anglican tradition, which have nourished the Christian faith and aroused aspirations for Catholic unity among Anglicans, can also be received. These, says Pope Benedict, are not only things that could sustain these communities of former Anglicans, now Catholics, but are “a treasure to be shared” with the whole Church.