Jeremiah – the Weeping Prophet – “Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem…”
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“It’s that time again.” Time to start the New (church) Year!
November 29 also begins the Season of Advent:
Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”
See On the readings for Advent Sunday, from last year. Note that the Advent Season doesn’t end until the afternoon of December 24. That’s when the Season of Christmas – also known as Christmastide – begins. See The 12 Days of Christmas. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Getting back to the Advent Season, it used to be kept as a period of fasting “as strict as in Lent.” And just as Mardi Gras kicks off the season of Lent, the penitential season of Advent used to be preceded by the “feast day of St. Martin of Tours.” (Seen at right.)
The feast of St. Martin used to be “a time of frolic and heavy eating,” much like Mardi Gras. But while the Church kept Advent as a season of penitence, it relaxed the rules on fasting before Christmas.
This year the Bible readings for November 29 were: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-9, 1st Thessalonians 3:9-13, and Luke 21:25-36. The first reading – from Jeremiah – is from the man known as The Weeping Prophet. (The term “jeremiad” came from him. That’s a “long, mournful complaint or lamentation,” or a “list of woes.”)
But for Advent Sunday, Jeremiah had a joyful message: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel… I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
That “righteous branch” of course was Jesus.
For a good commentary on Psalm 25, see Seeking God in the Hard Times. (And in a way the church seasons of preparation and penitence – Advent and Lent – can be seen as a kind of Spiritual boot camp. As seen at left…)
On that note too, see the reading from 1st Thessalonians, where the Apostle Paul prayed that God might “so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless … at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
And finally, note that last year’s Gospel was Mark 13:24-37. This year, the Gospel for Advent Sunday retells the same story, but from Luke’s perspective. In Luke 21:25-36, Jesus foretold of “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations…”
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”
As noted in last year’s post on Advent Sunday, in doing so Jesus was quoting the Book of Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel. See also Jesus and messianic prophecy. The main point Jesus was trying to make? “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” And also, “What I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…
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Re: the end of Advent. See Liturgy: Advent and Christmas Seasons – Felix Just, SJ: “Advent technically ends of the afternoon of Dec. 24, since that evening, Christmas Eve, begins the Christmas Season.”
… a painting by Spanish mannerist painter El Greco, painted c. 1597-1599 [“now showing” at] the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. It depicts a legend in the life of Christian saint Martin of Tours: the saint cut off half his cloak and gave it to a beggar.
See also St. Martin’s Day – Wikipedia, which said the actual feast day was November 11:
In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin’s Day to Epiphany [January 6], a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent. It was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin’s Lent). This period of fasting was later shortened and called “Advent” by the Church.
Re: Jeremiah as “weeping prophet.” See The Weeping Prophet: Reflections on Jeremiah 31:27-34 – Patheos, and also What should we learn from the life of Jeremiah?
Re: Jesus quoting Isaiah and Daniel. See: 1) Isaiah 13:10, “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” 2) Isaiah 34:4, “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.” And 3) Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”
The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia, The Parable of the barren fig tree.