Maranatha is a two-word phrase in Aramaic (Maran’atha) that can be translated as “Our Lord is coming” or “Come, Lord.”
In the church year, the final weeks before Christmas are celebrated with special prayers, called O Antiphons. They are prayed one each day at Mass and during Vespers in the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-24.
The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold: each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Rod of Jesse’s Stem, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O Desire of Nations, and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. The O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but also bring it to a joyful conclusion. The familiar Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, is a musical version of the O Antiphons.
Several contemporary liturgical musicians have composed hymns to celebrate the Octave of Christmas and the O Antiphons. My favorites include:
“Maranatha” by G. Westphal (1981)
“Maranatha” by Gerard Chiusano (2000)
“Emmanuel” by Steve Angrisano (2004)
“Come Lord! Maranatha” by Ricky Manalo, CSP (2006)
The final Advent practice I would like to mention is the tradition of the Christmas Tree. I have watched altogether too many Hallmark Christmas movies this year! In each one, the characters are buying a real evergreen tree that completely fills the indoor space where it is set up. (Also, it is usually snowing and there’s ice skating involved at some point.) I loved this tradition when I was a child growing up Massachusetts, and for many years I set up a large evergreen tree in my home. Now that I live in Florida, without snow and outdoor ice skating, I set up a 4-ft green artificial tree. I have scaled back on tree ornaments, too. The ones that hang on my tree now each hold a special memory – of the persons who gave me the ornaments, of my parents on whose trees the ornaments originally hung, and of places around the world that were memorable experiences. The Book of Blessings (Catholic Church) includes a short blessing that you might consider as you put the finishing touches on your own Christmas tree.
Let your blessing come upon us as we illuminate this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Q. How will you spend these final days of Advent?
Q. In addition to writing cards, baking, and perhaps shopping, will you make time for waiting in stillness?