Thursday, December 15, 2011

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel!

Advent is always a special time for obtaining graces and a great time of anticipation and excitement especially among the children for the big event that is to come:  the Birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

The key to helping children prepare their little hearts and minds for such big event, as many would already have experienced, is through the use of several activities, interactive exercises, games and visual reminders.


The family Creche is a classic symbol for the season and what we are preparing for.  Whilst the figures are laid for the children to see and be reminded of the wonderful story of Christmas, the manger remains empty to emphasize the great anticipation for the Birth of Christ.  Come midnight of the 24th, the figure of the Infant Jesus will be passed around amidst singing of the "O Holy Night" or "Silent Night" until the end of the song and whoever the figure ends up with carefully places the little Baby figure on Its manger.


A beautiful family tradition we have started a few years ago is the adaptation of the "Jesse Tree" which is a great tool for teaching the children about God's love and the stories of God's relationship with His people from the time of Creation leading up to the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ - Our Redeemer into the world to reconcile His fallen people to Himself.

For us this tradition and the use of the tree and symbols have evolved in terms of materials and scriptural readings used, fundamentally to make it simple and understandable for all our children, regardless of the age.  This year we have utilized a "tree" planted in a pot covered in purple (advent) fabric.  We decorated the tree with 5 bows:  3 purple (to represent the 1st, 2nd and 4th week of Advent), 1 pink (for Gaudete Sunday) and 1 white (Christmas day).  The ornaments have been made such that they look like little "stained glass" ornaments hanging on the tree.  Perspex sheets (about 3-4 mm thick) have been cut to size and beautiful pictures were drawn on them to depict the stories discussed nightly from the 1st of December to 16th, and then the symbols for the O Antiphons which are chanted/recited from the 17th up to the 23rd.

December 1 - CREATION - Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-4

December 2 - ADAM AND EVE:  Genesis 2:7-9, 18-24

December 3 - FALL OF MAN:  Genesis 3:1-7 and 23-24

December 4 - NOAH:  Genesis 6:5-8, 13-22; 7:17,23, 24; 8:1, 6-22

December 5 - ABRAHAM:  Genesis 12:1-3
Stars for Abraham - to symbolize God's promise that his descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky
December 6 - ISAAC:  Genesis 22:1-14

December 7 - JACOB:  Genesis 25:1-34; 28:10-15

December 8 - JOSEPH OF EGYPT:  Genesis 37:23-28; 45:3-15

 December 9 - MOSES:  Exodus:2:1-10

December 10 - SAMUEL:  1Samuel 3:1-18
Temple for Samuel - to symbolize where he was called by the Lord
December 11 - JESSE - 1Samuel 16:1-13

 December 12- DAVID:  1Samuel 17:12-51

December 13 - SOLOMON:  1Kings 3:5-15, 16-28

December 14 - JOSEPH:  Matthew 1:18-25

December 15 - MARY:  Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38

December 16 - JOHN THE BAPTIST - Mark 1:1-8


From the 17th of December,  as the anticipation for the big event intensifies, the Church and families recite or Chant the O Antiphons.  They express our great longing for the coming of our Saviour and the great Gift that the Christ-Child is about to bless the world with.  The underlying theme of the O Antiphons is the majesty of the Redeemer, His wisdom, faithfulness and sanctity, His justice and mercy, His covenant with His chosen people.  They point towards his power and love as King and Saviour of the world and His relation to every person as Emmanuel, God-with-us.

December 17 - O SAPIENTIA (O Wisdom) - Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 24:2, Wisdom 8:1
The "all-seeing eye" represents the all-knowing and ever-present God. During the late Renaissance, the eye was pictured in a triangle with rays of light to represent the infinite holiness of the Trinity. The lamp is a symbol of wisdom taken from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25.
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia:  veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, Who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18 - O ADONAI (O Lord and Ruler) Exodus 3:2; 20:1
The burning bush reminds us of the time the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses on Mt Sinai.  The 10 Commandments are used to represent the whole of God's law, the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, the Torah), or the entire Old Testament.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti:  veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.

December 19 - O RADIX JESSE (O Root of Jesse) - Isaiah 11:1-3

The flower which springs up from the root of Jesse is another figure of christ.  Isaiah prophesied that the Saviour would be born from the root of Jesse, that He would sit upon the throne of David, and in Christ this prophecy is fulfilled.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.

December 20 - O CLAVIS DAVID (O Key of David) - Isaiah 22:22

The key is the emblem of authority and power.  Christ is the Key of House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies, and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israƫl, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; Come and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21 - O ORIENS (O Radiant Dawn) - Psalm 19:6-7 (Or Psalm 18 in older bibles)
Just as the natural sun gives light and life to all upon whom its rays fall, so Christ, the Rising Dawn, dispels darkness and brings eternal life and light.
O Oriens, splendor Lucis aeternae, et so justitiae; veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice, some and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

December 22 - O REX GENTIUM (O King of the Gentiles) - Apocalypse 15:1-4
The crown (and sceptre) signify Christ's universal kingship.  As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one; Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

December 23 - O EMMANUEL (God With Us) - Isaiah 9:2-7
The manger reminds us of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and is representative of His life of humility.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum; veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Saviour:  Come to save us, O Lord our God.

Our little Jesse Tree showing some of the ornaments


As in the past, we are using the wooden manger that hubby constructed some years ago; although this year (instead of using the small manger in the Creche), we are using this bigger one for the children to earn straws to line the manger.  As an added emphasis, apart from earning straws for each good deed, they also have to place pebbles / little stones on the manger whenever they choose to do something wrong - to help them understand that any little offense hurts Jesus. 

What an exciting time Advent is, indeed.  We thank God for little opportunities for earning grace that he allows us to have.  For children, using materials and symbols are always excellent tools and resources to help them internalize the gift that we are about to receive; and really live the experience of preparing their little hearts for the coming of the Christ-Child.  And at this stage, we pray that come Christmas Day, we will have prepared the little mangers in each of our hearts ready for Jesus to take His rest.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel;  captivum solve Israel!