Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Now that Thanksgiving (but hopefully not the leftovers) are behind us, we can turn our attention to the season of Advent. The grace of a new beginning which this season always brings is especially welcome this year.
1) We will begin scheduling lay lectors for Masses on the First Sunday of Advent. In the many months since Masses were first canceled, then restricted because of COVID-19, the number of lectors available to return has dwindled to 10. These will be scheduled strategically until we can train new recruits after the beginning of the New Year. Until then, some, but not all, Masses will have lay lectors. Since we have quite a number of gifted readers, I am looking forward to hearing their voices again soon.
2) The re-introduction of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist at Mass will begin, but more slowly, for a few reasons. Because we no longer provide Holy Communion under signs of both bread and wine, no cups and fewer EMs will be needed for the time being. At SVdP, we are blessed to have a very active (and vitally necessary) deacon who is present at nearly all Masses. The liturgical directives require that the deacon, as an ordained minister of the Eucharist, take precedence over lay ministers. This in no way discountenances the dignity and service of EMs, but is intended as a sign of the distinctive nature of ordained ministry. (For that same reason, a deacon must read the Gospel even if a priest or bishop is present.) After the New Year, we will recruit and train the new EMs that we may need.
3) For the Sundays of Advent, we will continue the practice of having families or small groups of parishioners light the Advent wreath at the beginning of Mass and offer a brief reflection on a specific aspect of Advent preparation. The blessing of the Advent wreath itself will take place at its proper time, at the end of the Prayers of the Faithful.
4) The practice on the Sundays of Advent of passing lit candles through the congregation at the end of Mass, adopted a number of years ago, will not be resumed. These reasons are practical, theological and principled, respectively. It runs counter to the purpose of keeping reasonable distance between parishioners still sitting in every other pew. Congregational candles are uniquely reserved for the Easter Vigil, when the central symbol of the Easter liturgy, beginning with the Easter fire, is to welcome the Light of Christ. (Advent, by contrast, is quiet preparation for the dawning of Christ, not a premature celebration of its realization.) The final, and perhaps most important point, is one of principle. The liturgy of the universal Church is the product of nearly two millennia of communal prayer and practice, not something any individual person or parish has license to alter, however compelling the reason.
I wish you all a blessed beginning of this new season of hope.
Fr. Bill Donahue