Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent)
are known as "Advent Embertide," and they come near the beginning of the
Season of Winter (December, January, February). Liturgically, the readings
for the days' Masses follow along with the general themes of Advent, opening
up with Wednesday's Introit of Isaias 45: 8 and Psalm 18:2 :
Drop down dew,
ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be
opened and bud forth a Savior. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and
the firmament declareth the work of His hands.
Saturday's Masses will include one and four Lessons, respectively, with all
of them concerning the words of the Prophet Isaias except for the last lesson
on Saturday, which comes from Daniel and recounts how Sidrach, Misach, and
Abdenago are saved from King Nabuchodonosor's fiery furnace by an angel.
This account, which is followed by a glorious hymn, is common to all Embertide
Saturdays but for Whit Embertide.
The Gospel readings for the three days concern, respectively, the
Annunciation (Luke 1:26-28),
Visitation (Luke 1:37-47), and
St. John the Baptist's exhorting
us to "prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths" (Luke 3:1-6).
The Natural Season
Psalm 147:12, 16-17
"Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem:
praise thy God, O Sion.
Who giveth snow like wool:
scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels:
who shall stand before the face of his cold?"
Winter is a time
of reflection, when human activity is stilled and snow blankets the world
with silence. For the Christian, Winter symbolizes Hope: though the world
now appears lifeless and makes us think of our own mortality, we hope in
our resurrection because of the Resurrection of the One Whose Nativity we
await now. How providential that the Christ Child will be born at the beginning
of this icy season, bringing with Him all the hope of Spring! Also among
our Winter feasts are the Epiphany and
Candlemas, two of the loveliest
days of the year, the first evoked by water, incense, and gold; the latter
Yes, despite the typical, unimaginative view of Winter as a long bout with
misery, the season is among the most beautiful and filled with charms. The
ephemeral beauty of a single snowflake... the pale blue tint of sky reflected
in snow that glitters, and gives way with a satisfying crunch under foot...
skeletal trees entombed in crystal, white as bones, cold as death, creaking
under the weight of their icy shrouds... the wonderful feeling of being inside,
next to a fire, while the winds whirl outside... the smell of burning wood
mingled with evergreen... warm hands embracing your wind-bitten ones... the
brilliant colors of certain winter birds, so shocking against the ocean of
white... the wonderfully long nights which lend themselves to a sense of
intimacy and quiet! Go outside and look at the clear Winter skies ruled by
Taurus, with the Pleiades on its shoulder and Orion nearby... Such beauty!
Even if you are not a "winter person," consider that Shakespeare had the
right idea when he wrote in "Love's Labours Lost":
Why should proud
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in Mays new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
Winter is characterized
by "wet and cold," and is associated with the golden years of old age, the
humour of phlegm, the phlegmatic temperament,
1 and the element of water. Giuseppe
Arcimboldo's fascinating portraits of the season and its associated element
lead the imagination in all directions: