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Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Rick welcomes back one of our favorite guests, Daryl Sequeira from Servite High School. Daryl is the ‘chair’ of the theology department at Servite. Our topic of conversation today is on the Advent season. How good a job have we been doing in truly keeping Jesus as the ‘reason for the season?’






Originally broadcast on 12/21/17


Episode 24   December 16, 2017     Christ Cathedral Musicians, Dr. John Romeri, Director of Music, and David L. Ball, Assistant Director and Organist, present a special MUSIC FROM THE TOWER with the great music of the season of Advent.

MUSIC: O Come, O Come Emmanuel   Chant.  arr. Andrew Carter  Choir of St. Paul, London,  John Scott, conductor  CD: “Advent at St. Paul’s”
MUSIC:  E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come    Paul Manz   Choir of National Cathedral  James Litton, conductor  CD: “Sing in Exultation”
MUSIC: Matin Responsory  (I Look from afar)  Giovanni Palestrina The Choir of Kings College  Philip Ledger, conductor  CD:  “Best Beloved Christmas Carols”
MUSIC:  Sleepers Awake  (Cantata No. 140) Johann S. Bach  Organist David L. Ball  from a live performance at St. Thomas Church, New York.
MUSIC:  Lo, He comes with Clouds decending  arr. John Rutter Cambride Singers, City of London Sinfonia, John Rutter conducting.  CD: “Sing, Ye Heavens”
MUSIC:  Toccata on Veni Emmanuel  Andrew Carter  Organist John Scott  CD: “Advent at St. Paul’s”
MUSIC:  On Jordan’s Bank  Hymn setting “Winchester New”  the Choir of Kings College Sir David Willcocks, conductor  CD: Christmas-time Carols
MUSIC:  On Jordan’s Bank   Ambrosian Chant Cathedral Singers, Richard Proulx, Conductor  CD: More Sublime Chant
MUSIC: Rejoice in the Lord alway  annon.   The Choir of Westminster Abby  CD: “Slendour and Tranquility”
MUSIC:  A Great and Mighty Wonder  (Lo, How A Rose) Michael Praetorius arr. James Whitbourn  the Choir of Kings College Sir David Willcocks, conductor CD: “Essential Carols”
MUSIC: Magnificat (I. Magnificat anima mea)  John Rutter  Cambride Singers, City of London Sinfonia, John Rutter conducting  CD: “Magnificat, The Falcon”


The Advent Season brings with it distinctive sights and sounds that alert us to the meaning of this liturgical season of grace, blessing and hope. Transitioning from Ordinary Time, which takes up the latter part of spring, summer and the majority of fall, we move from green vestments to the purple of the Advent season. Traditionally, this shade of liturgical color is distinct from the darker violet of the penitential Lenten season, for the “purple” of Advent is touched with tinges of blue that points our minds and hearts to Mary, who plays such a pivotal role in the Advent story. In fact, in the Anglican tradition, the use of what is called sarum blue, associated with the ritual traditions of Salisbury Cathedral, is an optional liturgical color within this season.

The Advent wreath with its distinctive candles, three purple and one of rose color, silently marks the passing of each of the Advent Sundays as we near the great feast of the Incarnation. Its light in the midst of the winter darkness touches our minds and hearts as we await the remembrance of the “dawn of salvation.”

The sights of Advent are combined with the sounds of this season. There is no more traditional melody that bespeaks the Advent season than the haunting chant of the familiar O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The text of this Advent hymn is rooted in one of the oldest and most important liturgical texts of this season. Each verse provides a musical reflection on the ancient O Antiphons that frame Mary’s great canticle of praise, the Magnificat of Evening Prayer, during the final seven days prior to the festival of Christmas. Beginning on Dec. 17 and continuing to Dec. 23, each day of this privileged octave prior to Dec. 25 is assigned a specific antiphon or text that captures a different dimension of the meaning of the Christ whose birth we commemorate at Christmas. Dec. 24 possesses a distinctive and unique antiphon filled with the anticipated joy of the birth of the savior. While the origins of these prayer texts are somewhat disputed among liturgical scholars, by the 8th century their use in the Liturgy of the Hours became standard in Rome.

The texts of these great O Antiphons are rooted in the scriptural imagery of the Advent prophet, Isaiah. Prophesying the coming of the anointed one, Isaiah speaks of the various titles that point to the meaning of the one in whom all the hopes and dreams of the children of Israel would be fulfilled.

In his article, “What are the O Antiphons?,” Father William Saunders presents a beautiful commentary on these ancient texts:

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. Isaiah had prophesied, The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (11:2-3), and wonderful is his counsel and great is his wisdom. (28:29).

O Adonai: O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Isaiah had prophesied, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (11:4-5); and indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us. (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. Isaiah had prophesied, But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (11:1), and on that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open. (22:22), and his dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. (9:6).

O Oriens: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Isaiah had prophesied, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. Isaiah had prophesied, For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (9:5), and he shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. Isaiah had prophesied, The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

As the great Feast of Christmas draws near and as we enter into the sights and sounds of these final days of our Advent season of hope and promise, may these words that will be on our lips in song and prayerful reflection deepen our anticipation for the Lord of Glory to make his home in our lives. May they help us to appreciate ever more profoundly this still point moment in human history because of him who is Emmanuel, God with us. c

Monsignor Holquin in the Pastor/Rector Emeritus at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano and the Episcopal Vicar for Divine Worship for the Diocese of Orange.



In 21st century America, Christmas candy and decorations often appear in stores immediately after Halloween, Christmas tunes come on the radio in mid-November, and Christmas trees are meticulously decorated before Thanksgiving. For Catholics, however, Christmas is still on the horizon, and Advent—the time of preparing for Christmas—has just begun.

The Christmas season as observed by the Church this year begins with a vigil Mass on Christmas Eve, and lasts until the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 11, 2015. Advent, which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (this year Nov. 30) and lasts until Christmas Eve, isn’t considered part of the Christmas season but rather as a time to prepare hearts and minds for the coming of Christ.

Photo: Thinkstock


Swept up in the bustle and commercialism of the holidays, it can be easy to forget the true meaning of Advent, a time whose purpose goes beyond lighting four purple candles on the Advent wreath or marking off days on the Advent calendar. Rather than diving right in to the holiday merriment, Catholics stress the importance of building up the excitement in anticipation of the coming of Christ. This preparation for Christmas mirrors the waiting period that Joseph and Mary experienced while waiting for the birth of Jesus, and Catholics also use this period to anticipate fully welcoming Jesus into their lives.

During Advent, Lesa Truxaw, Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Orange, makes an effort to spend more time in prayer and clear her social calendar—not an easy task during the rush of the holidays. She also attends penance services, which she says are “a wonderful way of preparing for the gift of Jesus and remembering that with Christ’s help, we can be better and start afresh.”

Truxaw acknowledges that it can be difficult not to get co-opted into the modern cultural context of Christmas, but says that Catholics can remain faithful to the message of Advent with prayer, penance and acts of service. “It’s that preparation, that waiting part that I think is a real challenge to keep in focus. When we do, then the celebration of Christmas can be that much richer because there is a contrast,” she says.

While it’s impractical to leave the holiday decorating until the start of the true Christmas season, Truxaw suggests that Catholics mark the passage of time by holding off on some habits. For example: put up decorations but don’t turn on the Christmas lights until Christmas Eve, Christmas trees can be blessed in homes. Families also can engage children in the excitement of the anticipation by waiting to put up certain decorations, such as presents under the Christmas tree or poinsettias on the porch, until Christmas Eve. In nativity scenes, the baby Jesus commonly is not placed in the manger until Christmas Eve, and the three wise men don’t appear until the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day or Little Christmas.

Once the Christmas season begins, many often celebrate by attending Mass more frequently, giving small gifts each day until the Epiphany, and celebrating with holiday foods. It’s important, and countercultural, to celebrate the Christmas season in its entirety. Rather than getting caught up in the holiday craze before Christmas season starts or abandoning the holiday spirit the day after Christmas, revel in the joy and festivities during the period until the Baptism of the Lord (celebrated on the Sunday after Epiphany, this year on Jan. 11).

Not all Catholic celebrations look alike, but the themes of prayer, family (related or church family), and service persist. Some Catholics choose a few Christmas cards from family and friends each day and pray for the senders, or celebrate with festive songs such as “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which includes symbolic Christian lyrics. Nearly everyone decorates a Christmas tree, which symbolizes Jesus and the family: the evergreen needles are a reminder of Christ’s constant presence, the lights represent the light of Christ, and the ornaments are linked to treasured memories.

“[There’s] this pressure to buy and consume when in fact the message of the season is for peace and for love,” says Truxaw. “Of course Christ is a gift to us and we recognize that, but there’s been such a cultural expectation on what the perfect holiday is—it’s this gorgeously set table and an abundance of food and gifts—when in fact what we’re celebrating is a migrant family that had no place to live, but yet found love and a way of existing, that offers life and love to all of us.”


To avoid being overwhelmed by the seasonal merchandising hustle, some parents use an Advent calendar to focus their families’ attention on the spiritual season leading to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Advent, as early as the sixth century, was observed by some Christians in preparation for the Nativity and to look ahead to Jesus’ return. Eventually Advent was adopted by the Catholic Church and defined as the four weeks prior to Christmas, starting on the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Feast Day. This year the feast day and the start of Advent converge on Nov. 30.

Children use Advent calendars to count down the days to Christmas. Religious calendars of paper, cloth or wood—often portraying the Nativity–typically come with 24 little doors that a child opens, one each day, to find biblical verses or pictures that convey an aspect of Christmas. Other calendars have 24 small pockets that contain tiny Nativity figures or ornaments to affix to a stable or pine tree. And often there are sweet surprises of chocolate.

On a mid-November afternoon, Debbie Dubeau of Ladera Ranch bought a Nativity themed Advent calendar at Crusade Catholic Store in San Juan Capistrano that she planned to display in her office at Serra Catholic School, where she serves as Director of Parent Relations.

Dubeau, who is in her 50s, fondly recalls Advent calendars in her childhood home in Chicago’s suburbs. She said she and her husband continued the tradition during their first Christmas as newlyweds. This year Dubeau mailed Advent calendars to their two children in college. And she keeps another at home for herself, her husband and her mother, who lives with them.

Advent calendars encourage you “to take time out of every day to be prayerful and thoughtful and prepare your heart for Jesus,” Dubeau said.

The idea originated in Germany in the early 19th century, when families would draw a line in chalk on a door or light a candle or hang a religious picture on a wall to mark the days until Christmas. Gerhard Lang is widely considered to have first printed an Advent calendar to sell in 1908 that resembles today’s calendars.

Production of the calendars stopped in Germany during World War II because of a cardboard shortage but was begun again in 1946 by Richard Sellmer, a Stuttgart printer, who sold commercial calendars worldwide.

Retailers, both online and in stores, this year are offering calendars with a wide variety of themes, both religious and secular, and some are quite expensive.

A LEGO City Advent Calendar that sells for $40.35 on has toys with which children can populate a Christmas cityscape, including Santa, two policemen and a bandit absconding with presents.

One Pottery Barn calendar is a $179 wall-mounted tree with 24 woven wicker baskets for small gifts.

Still, Joanne Peters, owner of Catholic Books and Gifts in Fountain Valley, said she finds that the most popular Advent calendars are simply made, feature the Nativity scene and sell for less than $2.

Katie Dawson, Director of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange, questioned the sense of buying elaborate calendars filled with pre-Christmas gifts.

“Parents think they are doing something good for their children but they would be better off focusing their children on someone else’s needs rather than their own wants,” she said.

“The Advent calendar is a good tool as long as it is clearly anchored in the real meaning of the season of Advent, which is waiting and anticipating,” she added.