October 4, 2022

The old and the new: Resources for Advent and Christmas

The old and the new: Resources for Advent and Christmas

What does it mean when we say that things are “getting back to normal” or “getting to a new normal”? Here, on the edge of Advent, what we really want to during this season and the Christmas that follows to realize that the future we thought we would be having will never come. It is forever changed. And so while we want to get back in touch with our customs and traditions around Advent and Christmas, at the same time we need to establish new traditions, and that will likely mean new repertoire. Here are some ideas to help bridge the familiar now with the new that is coming.

First, let’s revisit some classic texts. OCP is so excited to be working with the estate of James Quinn, SJ to acquire the rights to all of his amazing poetry. So many of these texts have been part of our song for generations, and now they are all in one place, Hymns for All Seasons. This collection of beautifully written hymn texts makes for a great gift at Christmas — for a loved one, a long-time member of your music ministry or for a pastor who enjoys the music of this gentle giant of liturgical composition.

But more than that, I suggest using these classic texts in your prayer. As people involved in the liturgy, or even for the people in the pews, these texts — which are quite literally for all seasons — can bring a sense of normalcy to a time that is quite unsettled. Many of these texts have become part of how we breathe as Catholics. This definitive collection provides a wealth of information for hymnologists, pastoral musicians and others interested in hymns.

Second, we should have a special thought for the Eucharist during this season, as our Bishops have begun the important work of a Eucharistic Revival. The past couple of years have upset our understanding of the Mass and of our presence at church. Hopefully it has renewed our desire to receive Christ in Communion. Fortunately we have the gift of beautiful texts from Father Michael Joncas, a diocesan priest from Minnesota. From the heart of this priest composer comes, Within Our Hearts Be Born, hymns with deep theology as well as a poetic sense that inspires us all.

Pastoral musicians should also take notice of this wonderful collection. With so much new music available, it is good to return to traditional hymn forms, especially from the composer of “On Eagle’s Wings.”

Finally, now more than ever, young people need something in which to invest their lives. Combining the considerable gifts of Gerard Chiusano and Mary Hochman, Waiting for Love is a delightful Advent/Christmas cantata for listeners young and old alike. Designed for performance in parish and school settings, the program features 12 songs that bring the story of redemption to life, from the creation through the Incarnation. Written in rhyming couplets, the cantata is very performable for children, even an entire parish, with sung assembly participation. Starting something new this year can make sense. Take the long view. Introducing a parish tradition going forward will link this special year to all the years to come.

It is my sincerest hope that these thoughts help you in your reflections and plans. A new year will certainly bring new challenges and opportunities. Now is the time to be sure that you have renewed your commitment to your cantors and lectors by ensuring you have sufficient quantities of the annual resources we all rely on. You might also look at Hear Our Prayer/Te Rogamos Senor as a replacement for that binder with blank pages that you use for recording the people’s intercessions. Having a worthy volume in which to record these will affirm the importance we all attach to the presence of the people at our celebrations.

The people are coming back, and we need to celebrate that fact. So, as we begin to grow again, let this time serve as a bridge from the old to the new year.

Dr. Glenn CJ Byer
Dr. Glenn CJ Byer

Glenn CJ Byer has written widely on the liturgy, including articles on the meaning of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, marriage preparation, the renovation of churches and the anointing of the sick. He speaks widely on the role of lay ministers in the Mass.