- Faith and Worship
- How Do I...
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 7, 2019
By Father Jason Tyler
In my parish, as in many parishes, we have to schedule major events far ahead of time. In May of every year, I sit down with parish staff and other ministry leaders to go over the events calendar for the next school year. Many non-school activities also follow a schedule similar to a school year. We want to make sure events don’t conflict with each other and have enough space between them so that we don’t overtire the volunteers who are so critical to making such things happen.
The liturgical calendar is a major factor in determining many other schedules. When will Easter be? And Ash Wednesday? What do those dates mean for RCIA? For first Communion? Even school fundraisers are scheduled with those dates in mind. Christmas is easier for scheduling purposes because it is always on Dec. 25. Other holy days are also “fixed” to a certain date: Aug. 15 for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Nov. 1 for All Saints’ Day and Jan. 1 for Mary, Mother of God.
Normally, we also have the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8. This year, however, we have a little quirk in the calendar as Dec. 8 falls on a Sunday. At that planning meeting last May, I was asked whether we would use readings and prayers for Immaculate Conception or for the Second Sunday of Advent. Thankfully, it’s not my decision to make. The Church has a hierarchy of liturgical days, which determines which celebration we observe in such a situation.
It’s not that Immaculate Conception is a lesser holy day; rather, the idea is that each Sunday of Advent is significant and is needed in our preparation to celebrate the birth of Our Lord at Christmas.
If a solemnity such as the Assumption or All Saints’ Day falls on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, the readings for the solemnity take precedence, and the readings for that particular Sunday in Ordinary Time are simply skipped. During the season of Lent, Advent or Easter, however, the Sunday readings take precedence. It’s not that Immaculate Conception is a lesser holy day; rather, the idea is that each Sunday of Advent is significant and is needed in our preparation to celebrate the birth of Our Lord at Christmas.
This Sunday, Dec. 8, we will hear Isaiah speak about the Spirit of the Lord coming to rest upon the shoot that sprouts from the stump of Jesse (Jesus). It is a “spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.” Sound familiar? This passage is the source of the traditional list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We will hear John the Baptist announcing in Matthew’s Gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Especially as the Christmas shopping season seems to start earlier every year, we can benefit greatly from Advent’s very intentional waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. With only four Sundays in the season of Advent, the Church wants to ensure that the Lord’s Day in that season is fully dedicated to preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Thus, we understand a bit more why the Sundays of Advent have a higher place on the liturgical calendar.
What about the Immaculate Conception? Does it get skipped this year? Actually, no. It will still be celebrated, but this year it will be celebrated on Monday, Dec. 9. It will not be a holy day of obligation, but if you go to Mass on Monday, you will see the priest in white vestments with the readings and prayers of the Immaculate Conception. The Gloria and the creed will also be prayed as the Immaculate Conception is still a solemnity, even when “bumped” off its traditional day and even when we do not have an obligation to attend that Mass.
Enjoy this Advent season and your preparation for Advent, always ready to call out in prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!”