Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Wreaths and Looking forward to St Mark

Now that Advent is nearly over and all the candles on the Advent Wreath are lit I was trying to remember the first time I saw one in a Catholic Church in South Africa.  I'm sure it doesn't go back 20 years.     It's interesting that Wikipedia says that  it's originally German and Lutheran.  Wreaths of evergreens with candles going back before Christianity but I don't see the Advent Candles being particularly Catholic.  In fact the first one I ever saw had red candles with a white one in the middle for Christmas Day.  I imagine that we adopted three purple and one pink very recently.  

I think it's a rather nice custom but doesn't seem to sit very happily at the beginning of Mass.  A child usually lights the unlit candle for the week with the others already lit.  There is a little prayer and then we carry on with Mass as if nothing had happened.  It works much better in the home where it presumably originated.  We have always burnt one special candle for Advent and never converted to four!

This year, where gospel readings are concerned, is very much a Year of St Mark.  I'm looking forward to that as it is almost certainly the earliest Gospel and I love it's immediacy and it's teasing Messianic secret.  

I like to think that Mark is the John Mark of Acts and possibly the young man running away naked in Gethsemane because as a composite it fits with my picture of dare devil youth, of someone who couldn't get on with  Paul (I think Paul must have been insufferable as a companion.) though  Barnabas obviously saw his potential and he became the legendary founder of the Church in Alexandria, in Africa. 
HG Bishop Antonios Markos

St Mark is much venerated by the Coptic Orthodox Church and Bishop Antonios Marcos, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop for Africa, named the Cathedral in Johannesburg in his honour. The Copts are very much in need of our prayers and support at the moment with all the turmoil in Egypt and their fears of continuing persecution.

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