What Are The “O” Antiphons of the Advent Season?

Lone Purple Advent CandleToday is December 17th, which means for Catholics and many other Christians in the West, it is time for the “O Antiphons” of the Advent season to begin.

The “O Antiphons” are antiphons, short prayers, Scripture excerpts, etc, used before a psalm or canticle in the Liturgy of the Hours (a system of daily prayer used by Catholic priests and others).

The “O Antiphons” are used before the Magnificat (the song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55) at Vespers (Evening Prayer) during the last seven days of Advent in the Catholic Church.

They are called the “O Antiphons” because the title of each begins with the address “O”.

Each antiphon is a title of Christ, derived from attributes in Scripture.

They are:

December 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (With Us is God)

In the Catholic Church, they are used during Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23 inclusive.

If you are interested in these Antiphons, we have them all listed on our Advent Prayers page.

Why Saying “Happy Holidays” Doesn’t Bother Me

Red and Green Christmas bulbsTis the season for the “Christmas Wars” in Western society. My Facebook feed is filled with Christians lamenting the attack on Christmas by the government, businesses, liberals and virtually everybody else.

And, of course, it is their responsibility to fight back in any way they can.

While it may be true to some extent that there is a “war” on Christmas, one phrase that usually becomes the rallying point among Christians is the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

It is seen as a more politically correct replacement for “Merry Christmas.” Some Christians will only shop at stores that require their employees to say “Merry Christmas.”

First, let me say I celebrate Christmas. And, I don’t care for forced multiculturalism that squeezes out American and European cultural history (which includes celebrating Christmas). However, I also recognize that in our secular country, not everybody is Christian, and if someone tells me “Happy Hanukkah” I’ll say thanks and wish them the same. To me, that is the decent and cool thing to do.

Now, let me say that as a Catholic, there are two reasons why I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” and even prefer it. 

First, we are in the Advent season; It isn’t Christmas until December 25th. When I wish someone “Happy Holidays” I mean that I hope they have a great Advent, and once it arrives, Christmas season. The only phrase that concisely says all of that is “Happy Holidays.” While stores that say it may not mean it this way, I think it fits.

Second, what does “holiday” mean? It means “holy day.” Even though the intention may be the opposite sometimes, when you are wished “Happy Holidays,” that includes a whole host of holy days, from St. Nicholas on December 6th  to Holy Family.

So, next time someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” instead of feeling as if you are being “attacked,” relax and let it be a reminder to enjoy the rich selection of holidays that we celebrate during this time of year.

Seven Reasons Christians Get Cranky At Christmas (And Why I Don’t Like It)

santatackChristmas is a time to joyfully celebrate the birthday of Christ. Yet, it is also a time for some Christians to get really cranky and nitpicky. And, of course, I have to read it all on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

It seems as if some people (including many Christians) aren’t happy unless they find something to be outraged over every day.

Below are some reasons people get cranky about Christmas. I provide links to more scholarly things related to each topic, since this article is more tongue-in-cheek.

1. Jesus Wasn’t Born on Christmas

Well, he could have been born on Christmas. There is a 1/365 chance at least. While he may have been born on December 25th, no Catholic or other Christmas-celebrating Christian that I know of has ever insisted the Christmas holiday was about Jesus’ actual birth date. In fact, his actual birth date doesn’t matter.

So, yeah, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be right: Jesus could have been born in the spring. Either way, his birth is celebrated on December 25th. And, most Christians are content to relax and enjoy a day set aside to commemorate his birth, even if we can’t produce the birth certificate. Maybe Donald Trump can us help find it. But, until then, December 25th will have to do, and billions of Christians throughout history have reverently done so on this day.

2. Don’t Call Christmas “Xmas!”

I address this is another post, but people need to relax and not get bent out of shape over a little “X” in a word. How dare liberals try to “X” out our Lord and Savior by removing his name from the word “Christmas?” How do you know it’s true? Well, your great aunt shared a meme on Facebook, that’s why!

As I mention in the link above, Xmas is a perfectly Christian abbreviation, and is in no way an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Now, if someone calls Christmas “Christlessmas,” then you might want to get a little outraged.

3. Happy Holidays Subverts The Celebration Of Christmas

I can’t imagine how it must feel to get emotionally worked up over being told to have some happy holy days in your life, but some people see this as a chance to get angry and worked up. I can’t see Jesus getting too worked up over something like this, since he would have celebrated Hanukkah, so Happy Holidays seems appropriate.

I mention in this post that “Happy Holidays” is actually more reflective of the Catholic understanding of the Christmas and Advent seasons than is being told “Merry Christmas.” However, calmly realizing this fact is much less fun than getting worked up and sharing an outraged meme on Facebook about the subject.

4. Christmas And Its Customs Are Pagan.

Every so often I hear of people who refuse to celebrate Christmas because it is “pagan,” as if a day of the year can somehow be “pagan.” You better throw away your calendars, stop having bonfires, and take off your wedding rings if you are afraid of having “pagan influence” in your life.

It is funny how people who claim to want nothing to do with paganism are actually giving ancient pagan practices extreme power and authority. How? Well, let’s take the suggestion that a decorated evergreen tree can be pagan. By saying that, you are suggesting that once a pagan does something, nobody else can possibly do that thing ever again.

That’s like saying you can’t have a Caesar haircut because a pagan popularized it. Of course, now that I mention it here, some articles might soon be popping up about the “pagan origins of the Caesar cut.”

5. The Bible Doesn’t Mention Celebrating Christmas

The word “Christmas” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the story of Jesus’ birth is definitely in there. And while, sure, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate his birthday, it doesn’t tell us to celebrate a guy running an oblong leather ball into a big square on a painted field either, but I celebrate that every time the Cleveland Browns score a touchdown (which, of course, doesn’t happen often).

6. You Can’t Think About Christmas Until Advent Is Over

Starting in November, Christmas lights start going up and the local radio stations start playing Christmas music. Some Catholics get bent out of shape if you even mention the “C” word before December 25th, when Christmas technically begins.

While I think it is important to recognize Advent, in the United States especially, you can’t escape the reality that for most people, businesses, and homes, the celebration of secular Christmas is in full swing during Advent.

I tried locking myself in my home for nearly four weeks, or alternatively closing my eyes every time I drove by a house that had Christmas lights, but honestly, both ended badly (and painfully – at least for that mailbox).

7. Christmas Is Too Secular

Christmas is pretty secular. Most people celebrating it in America right now are likely do so in a way that focuses on presents, lights, and parties. However, in a society that is rapidly becoming non-Christian in its outlook, I can’t help but be grateful that at the very least people are celebrating Christmas, as opposed to just forgetting about it completely.

For at least one day a year, the majority of Americans and Europeans are celebrating something related to Christ. While this isn’t perfect, it is still something.

Besides, Catholics throughout history haven’t exactly kept every festival free of secular influences. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying lights, giving and receiving presents, and going to parties. In fact, some of the best parties I have ever been to were thrown by Catholics.

So, the bottom line of this post is that I don’t like it when cranky Christians try to take the joy out of a joy-filled season.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays From ChurchYear.Net

The Advent and Christmas seasons are a special time for Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians. During this time of the year, we celebrate the entrance of the Son of God into human history, and the waiting related to it. While the Paschal Triduum has traditionally been the most important part of the Church Year (culminating with the celebration of Easter), Christmas has developed into an extremely important cycle of the liturgical year that many Christians cherish.

ChurchYear.Net has received over a million visitors this year alone, and as we have done for eight years, we provide our resources for free. We appreciate that you have chosen us to provide you (and your parishes, schools, etc) with reliable and accessible information about Christian and Catholic holidays. Please enjoy this 30-second video Christmas card that we have made, and have a Happy Holidays (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany):

What is the Immaculate Conception Of Mary?

A Statue of Mary with the title "I am the Immaculate Conception" behind herTomorrow is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and we have information about that feast here. This solemnity celebrates a doctrine that is unique to Catholics, which is that Mary was conceived without original sin, and thus was without actual sin as well.

Sometimes the doctrine is confused with the Virgin birth (the conception of Jesus  by Mary and the Holy Spirit), but the two are very different.

So, why do Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary? It pretty much boils down to the fact that Mary was the mother of Jesus, God and man. Because she was a holy vessel, carrying our Lord, she needed to be holy as well. When did Mary become sinless and holy, fitting to bear the Son of God? Catholics say it happened from the very beginning, when Mary was conceived. Other Christians place the event at different points in her life. Many Orthodox Christians believe she was purified of all sin when she said “yes” to God’s call

The concept can seem a little confusing because official Church Teaching is that Mary was made sinless by Christ. That’s right. Christ’s saving grace was applied to Mary at her conception before he was even born. It may seem a little odd, but Catholic Teaching is that God is outside of time and space, and thus applying grace before the fact is perfectly acceptable when you are God.

This doctrine basically points back to Christ. Mary was sinless to bear Christ. Mary was made sinless by Christ. While some non-Catholics criticize the doctrine for elevating Mary to the level of Christ, the truth is that Mary’s Immaculate Conception shows the power of Christ.

ChurchYear.Net Advent Resources

Advent is coming up quickly (on Sunday), so I wanted to point our readers to the multiple Advent resources available on ChurchYear.Net. We strive to provide accurate and helpful information about the Advent Season and all holidays and seasons related to the Church Year. Please enjoy these resources.

General

All About Advent

Prayer

Advent Prayer and Collects

Advent Canticles and Hymns

Prayers and Hymns For the Pre-Feast of Nativity

Questions/Answers

Is Advent Christmas?

What is Gaudete Sunday? (the 3rd Sunday of Advent)