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
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
"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 by fire...
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 May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
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: