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October 29, 2020

The old and the new: Resources for Advent and Christmas

The old and the new: Resources for Advent and Christmas

We are tired of hearing how everything is different this year. We got that message a while ago. So here, on the edge of Advent, what we really want to do is to make this season and the Christmas that follows as normal as possible. That being said, 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 our priests this season. This year has completely upset their vision of ministry. If you look at the ordination rites, so much of what priests are ordained to do has been pulled out from under them. At some level, you need to be a priest to get this, so a gift of beautiful texts from Father Michael Joncas, a diocesan priest from Minnesota, might be just the ticket. From the heart of this priest composer comes, Within Our Hearts Be Born, hymns with deep theology as well as a poetic sense that will inspire homilies for years to come.

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. 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.