December 8: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

This feast occurs on a Saturday this year, but it remains a Holy Day of Obligation. Masses taking place in the evening of December 8 should celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. The faithful may be advised that there is a Mass obligation both for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the Second Sunday of Advent; that is, each day of obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass.

Singing at Mass for Deacons Workshop

37998781 1539382086207703 1887987968858128384 n 300x191 - Singing at Mass for Deacons WorkshopOn Saturday, February 23, from 10:00am – 12:00pm, the Office of Liturgy will be hosting a workshop which will introduce the deacon’s chants at Mass. This talk will be given at Saint Joseph’s Seminary by Dr. Jennifer Donelson, associate professor and director of sacred music at Dunwoodie. Topics to be covered include: chanting the Penitential Act, Gospel Acclamations, Gospel, Intercessions, Sign of Peace, Dismissal, Exsultet, and the Epiphany and Christmas proclamations. Basic vocal techniques for improving quality of sound and confidence will also be introduced.

This workshop is designed both for novices as well as those with more experience. The registration fee is $15 and may be accessed on the Liturgy Office website.

RCIA Consultation

From the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship:

The Committee on Divine Worship is in the early stages of preparing a new English edition of the RCIA, to be titled the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults. Although the Latin editio typica has not changed, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) has completed a new translation of the Latin text. 

The Committee and its consultants have had preliminary discussions on the current ritual book and the RCIA process and have received the results from two surveys on the National Statutes for the Catechumenate, both conducted in 2014: one by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) that looked specifically at how the statutes were being implemented, and the other, a consultation conducted by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) that suggested ways that the Statutes could be improved.

As a complement to these discussions and expert consultations, the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship would also like to hear from others about their experiences with the RCIA, both the process in general and, in particular, the ritual book and the National Statutes. Responses may be e-mailed to, or they can be sent by regular mail to: USCCB – Divine Worship, 3211 Fourth Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017, ATTN: RCIA Consultation. Responses must be received by December 31, 2018.

Parish Presentations on Liturgy and Sacred Music

Pastors looking to offer parish presentations on liturgy and sacred music topics are encouraged to contact the Office of Liturgy, which can assist in arranging for qualified and dynamic speakers from the local area to speak on these subjects. Presentation topics include:

  • Spiritual Renewal for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Lectors 
  • What does the Church Have to Say about Sacred Music? 
  • Planning and Preparing for Funeral Liturgies 
  • Preparing First Communion and Confirmation Liturgies 
  • Learning to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
  • The Prayers of the Mass as a Source for Personal Prayer
  • Training for Ministers of Hospitality
  • Learning to Pray with and Sing Gregorian Chant
  • Starting and Building a Children’s Choir
  • The Rite of Marriage for Engaged and Newly-married Couples

Saturday Sacred Music Course for Parish Musicians

 Saint Joseph’s Seminary has announced that a non-credited sacred music course will be taught this spring from January 19 through May 4:

Introduction to Music Reading, Music Theory, and Ear Training for Parish Musicians

Saturday mornings from 9:30 – 11:30am, Yonkers campus

Taught by Dr. Jennifer Donelson, D.M.A.

The cost of the course is $500 for current Seminary students and $250 for first-time students. More information may be found on the Seminary website. 

Update on Liturgical Books

pasted image 235x300 - Update on Liturgical BooksThe USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship has announced the publication and implementation of a new translation of the Order of the Dedication of a Church and an Altar. This revised edition will replace the existing set of dedication rites, which received an ad interim confirmation in 1978. There are no changes to the rituals themselves, although this new edition will now reflect the translation principles in Liturgiam authenticam and contain a large number of musical settings of antiphons and responsories. This text became the required English translation for use in the United States as of November 9 of this year, and the USCCB will be the sole publisher. Copies may be purchased at the USCCB’s online bookstore at $49.95. 

The Secretariat has also indicated that the Order of Christian Funerals is being reprinted by several liturgical publishers, who are incorporating the newer translations of texts found in the 2011 English Roman Missal, Third Edition. It should be noted that the funeral rites themselves have not changed, the older editions of the 1989 Order of Christian Funerals remain acceptable for liturgical use, and the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) does not plan to prepare a new translation of this ritual book in the foreseeable future.

Looking ahead, ICEL and the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship continue their work of preparing new translations of several other liturgical texts. These include a revision of the Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests, and of Deacons, the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition, and the Order of Penance. Several other books are awaiting confirmation from the Holy See at this time: the Order of Baptism of Children, Second Edition, the Order of Blessing the Oils of Catechumens and the Sick and Consecration of Chrism, and a Mass formulary for Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in English and Spanish.pasted image - Update on Liturgical Books

Day of Recollection for Parish Musicians – March 9

On Saturday, March 9, from 10:00am – 3:00pm, music directors, adult choir members, instrumentalists, and others involved in parish music ministry are invited to join Dr. Jennifer Pascual, director of music and organist at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, for a day of prayer, reflection, and music-making with fellow parish musicians from around the Archdiocese. The day will  take place at Marymount Convent in Tarrytown and include the celebration of Solemn Morning Prayer, conferences given by Dr. Pascual, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and time for fellowship. The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch. Attendees are invited to register at the Liturgy Office website. 

History and Liturgies of the Advent Season

EPUB000442 247x300 - History and Liturgies of the Advent SeasonWhile the origins of Advent are obscure, this season seems to trace its beginnings to sixth-century liturgical practice in Spain and Gaul. In those churches, Epiphany (January 6) was observed as a feast of Christ’s birth. Baptisms were also celebrated on this day, and it is thought that Advent may be connected to a time of pre-baptismal fasting prior to Epiphany.

In Rome, the first evidence of special liturgies during this season is in connection with the winter ember days. These days were traditionally observed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the feast of Saint Lucy (December 13) and were marked by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In his winter ember day sermons, Pope Saint Leo the Great (440-461) drew a correlation between the end of the calendar year and the second coming of Christ, stating that the ascetical practices observed during these days were an appropriate way to prepare for “the coming of the reign of God and the end times of the world.” By the mid-eighth century, however, Roman sacramentaries began to move away from this eschatological focus and instead placed an increasing emphasis on the theme of the Incarnation in the weeks leading up to the Christmas feast. This new liturgical season, referred to as Adventus by the ritual books of the time, was observed as a period of preparation in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth, but it was not a penitential season for the Roman Church. 

By contrast, Advent took on a decidedly more ascetical character in Gaul at this time due to the influence of itinerant Irish missionaries. In their sermons during this season, these monk-priests regularly encouraged practices associated with an atonement for sins in preparation for the final judgment. This penitential focus also came to be expressed in the liturgy: vestments in the color of violet were now worn in Advent, and the Gloria and Alleluia began to be omitted from Masses during this period. 

Many of these liturgical customs were eventually adopted in Rome by the twelfth century. However, certain non-penitential practices were retained due to the longstanding tradition of marking Advent as a time of joyful preparation for the feast of the Incarnation. For example, the Alleluia always remained a part of the Advent liturgies in Rome, at least on Sundays.

The post-Conciliar liturgical books indicate a return to the original Roman ethos of the Advent season. The Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) observe that “the season of Advent has a twofold character. It is a time of preparation for Christ when the first coming of God’s Son to men is recalled. It is also a season when minds are directed by that memorial to Christ’s second coming at the end of time. It is a season of joyful and spiritual expectation.” Thus, in a shift away from the penitential themes associated with the later development of the Advent season, the current Norms describe Advent as a festive time when Christ’s followers prepare themselves to celebrate the Incarnation while awaiting the Lord’s second coming (cf. CIC, c. 1250). 

Even though Christ’s birth and His return at the end of time are referenced in the Church’s liturgies throughout the entirety of Advent, each of these themes is emphasized to a greater or lesser degree at different times during the season. For example, from the beginning of Advent to December 16, the prayers and readings used at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours have a stronger eschatological focus, and they encourage God’s People to prepare themselves for the second coming of Christ. On the other hand, the liturgies celebrated from December 17 to December 24, inclusive, speak more frequently of the forthcoming feast of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. 

The latter portion of the Advent season is also marked by the famous “O Antiphons.” These texts come from the sixth century, and they use Old Testament references to the Messiah as a way of expressing God’s salvific plan for humanity in Christ. These antiphons are found in Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, and another version of them appears in Mass at the Alleluia verse. The “O Antiphons,” known best to most Catholics as the verses of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” are: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Dawn of the East), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel (O “God is with us”). In an interesting textual note, if one takes the first letters of each of the “O Antiphons” and reverses their order, this forms an acrostic which spells the Latin phrase Ero cras, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” 

This brief historical and liturgical overview of the Advent season reminds us that the Church’s liturgical year offers regular times of reflection and contemplation which open us to mystery and transcendence. Bearing in mind the many different traditions associated with Advent throughout its long history, we recall the gift that the Church gives us in her liturgical use of space, time, and language to prepare us, during these weeks at the conclusion of the year, to contemplate the great mystery longed for by all of humanity since the dawn of time: that of Christ’s coming and dwelling amongst us.

Sign up today for updates from the Office of Liturgy!