Trying to decorate the church for Advent? Two church documents offer guidance on the subject of church decor.
There are surprisingly few official rules about decorating churches, much to the chagrin of those who have been crowded out by Christmas poinsettias or engulfed by Easter lilies. At times, admittedly, the altar looks like it's been attacked by a rioting mob of florists.
Catholics use three purple candles—the color typically associated with penance—and one pink, the color of rejoicing worn on the third Sunday of Advent.
Since the early Middle Ages, all Christians have used the same method for determining the date of Easter, though they arrive at a different result. Described authoritatively in The Reckoning of Time by eighth-century English scholar Bede, “The Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” The equinox is observed on March 21. This straightforward method based upon an easily observable natural phenomenon survived the Schism of 1054, when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split from each other.
Pope Francis entered the papal conclave wearing the scarlet red of a cardinal and emerged in gleaming white. From where did this tradition arise? The old saying suggests that “good guys always wear white,” but have popes always done so?
Although the Catholic Church lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, it continued to teach that the deceased person’s body had to be present at the funeral.
Since 1963 the church has taught that Catholics can be cremated, abolishing its longstanding prohibition of the practice. Cremation was fairly widespread in the ancient world, but early Christians rejected the practice. Theologically, they did not consider cremation to be compatible with the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Creating new rituals for death and burial was also a way for Christians to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors.
In our contemporary political landscape, the option for the poor gets bandied about by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
I have a friend who is a permanent deacon. He’s a former Marine, and though he is wonderfully kind, he can also turn on his military face and voice to let you know when he means business. One Sunday at Mass, he preached a homily about prayer, particularly about praying for the poor. He had on his game face that day, and at the end of his homily he leaned in close to the microphone and said in a terrifyingly stern whisper, “I know you are all busy. But you can give 30 minutes of your God-given breath to pray for the poor.”
References to the communion of saints in Catholic belief can be found as far back as the fourth century.
Borrowing from the Letter to the Hebrews and from theologian and Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, we can imagine the communion of saints as a giant stadium of people, all of whom have run, or are running, a great race. As each of us takes our turn at the starting line, we are lifted up by the love and encouragement of all those who know well the challenges ahead of us and who have stayed to accompany us and cheer us on.