PLATTSBURGH – St. Peter’s Church is adorned this Advent season from floor to rafter with white lights, poinsettias, a nativity scene with the Holy Family, the Magi, wreaths and candles.
Outside the sanctuary, a connecting hallway explodes with a sweep of very red poinsettias and a decorated Christmas tree tucked into one corner.
Traditionally, Christmas trees are put up just before Christmas and remain in place until the Solemnity of Epiphany or Three Kings Day celebrated on January 6 in the West.
It marks when the Magi – Melchior, a Persian scholar; Caspar, an Ethiopian scholar; and Balthazar, an Arab scholar – the “Wise Men of the East” visited the Christ Child and brought gifts “of gold, frankincense and myrrh”, according to Matthew 2:11.
Advent started on November 28 and ends today.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org):
“Beginning the liturgical year of the Church, Advent (de, ‘ad-venire’ in Latin or ‘to come to’) is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas .
“The season of Advent is a time of preparation which directs our hearts and minds towards the second coming of Christ at the end of time and towards the anniversary of the birth of Our Lord at Christmas. From the earliest days of the Church, people have been fascinated by Jesus’ promise to return. But the scripture readings during Advent tell us not to waste our time with predictions. Advent is not a matter of speculation. Our Advent readings call us to be alert and ready, not weighed down and distracted by the cares of this world (Lk 21:34-36).
“Like Lent, the liturgical color of Advent is purple because they are two seasons that prepare us for great feasts. Advent also includes an element of penance in the sense of preparing, quieting and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas.
Across Holy Cross Catholic Parish, Holy Day Masses will be held today at 4 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church, 4 p.m. at Blessed John XXIII Newman Center and 8 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church.
On Christmas Day, a midnight mass and an 8:30 a.m. mass will be held at Saint-Pierre church as well as a 10 a.m. mass at Notre-Dame de la Victoire church.
No one really knows when the midnight observances began.
“To be honest, I would have to guess to some degree, but I would say the very fact that it is the start of Christmas Day,” said Reverend Kevin McEwan, pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Parish.
“It is the day when we celebrate the birth of the Lord, therefore the light that comes into the world.
“So we start by celebrating the start of the day, which starts at midnight.
The Christmas Mass will include readings and musical selections that relate to the birth of Jesus Christ.
“Obviously it’s a lot more festive for us to be like that than we decorate the church the way we do,” he said.
“For Christmas Eve, we will be lighting all the candles that people are burning in memory of people. We have an additional 90 candles, which is a tradition that parishes here in Plattsburgh have had. That’s going to make it very different.
The candles and accompanying prayers are for deceased loved ones as well as the living that parishioners care about or worry about.
“It will be in each of the churches that we will celebrate masses this weekend,” McEwan said.
“It is a very joyful occasion, obviously for the Church, to celebrate the birth of Christ. That’s the only reason we have Christmas. We come to church to give thanks to God for the gift of his Son.
“So that’s the right response to come back and thank God, so we do it by celebrating.”
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