Collect: Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
Monday, December 3: Channing Moore Williams
Channing Moore Williams was born in Richmond, VA in 1829 and was brought up by his widowed mother in poverty. After being ordained deacon in 1855, he offered himself for missionary work in China. In 1859, Japan was opened to the West and Williams was sent as the first Episcopal missionary. In 1866, he was consecrated Missionary Bishop of China and Japan. Being spread too thin because of the geographical size of his ministry, his work was slow going. So, Williams focused in on Japan and was made bishop there while Joseph Schereschewsky was made bishop of China. Schereschewsky and Williams were close friends and supporters. Schereschewsky called him “the most saintly of men” And Schereschewsky actually chastened the Board of Missions for their financial neglect of Williams. Though Williams never complained, he supported his ministry with two-thirds of his own already small income, living in a hut that served also as chapel and school. He founded St. Luke’s Hospital in Tokyo and a divinity school, St. Paul’s University. Though resigning as bishop in 1889, he served in Japan until 1908. He returned to America at age 79 and died peacefully 2 years later at his Virginia home.
Tuesday, December 4: St. Clement of Alexandria
St. Clement was born to pagan parents around 150. Before settling in Alexandria, Clement had immersed himself in philosophy, becoming an expert in Platonism and Stoicism. He traveled extensively to study, and eventually came to Alexandria, considered the second city of the Roman empire (after Rome), and an intellectual center for Christianity because of its Catechetical School. Meeting Pantaenus, the founder and master of the Catechetical School, Clement discovered a teacher who could guide him in both philosophy and the Christian faith. Clement succeeded Pantaenus as master of the school. He wrote a trilogy of books — An Exhortation to the Greeks, the Varied Tapestry, and the Teacher — considered groundbreaking for taking the truths of Christianity and presenting them in the forms of secular literature. He is the first to use the term “theopoiein,” (essentially defined in this quotation from Athanasius, “The Word of God was made man so that we might learn how men may become God”). Dying around 215, he was succeeded by his pupil, Origen.
Wednesday, December 5: St. John of Damascus
St. John was born in Damascus around 675, when the city was under Muslim rule. His father, a Christian man, was head of the revenue department. When he died, John took that position and also became the logothete, the representative of Christians to the Caliph. Desiring a more intensely dedicated life, St. John resigned and became a monk at St. Sabas. He lived a very ascetical life until 10 years passed and his spiritual director saw that he was mature enough to use his gifts of writing to serve the church without become conceited. At this time, the Iconoclastic controversy was at its height because Emperor Leo III had declared all images to be idols. St. John wrote 3 treatises defending icons between 726 and 730:
“In former times God, who is without form or body, could never be depicted. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and dwelt among us, I make an image of God in so far as he has become visible. I do not venerate matter; but I venerate the creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to make his dwelling in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. I shall never cease, therefore, to venerate the matter which wrought my salvation. Do not insult matter, for it is honorable. Nothing is without honor that God has made.”
Interestingly, because John lived under Muslim rule his whole life, he was protected and able to safely criticize the emperor. His best known work is The Font of Wisdom, and he also wrote poems and hymns (including one we sing throughout Eastertide, The Day of Resurrection). He died at age 74 in his monastery cell.
Thursday, December 6: St. Nicholas:
Though one of the most celebrated saints in the church year, almost nothing historically verifiable is known about St. Nicholas. He was a fourth-century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. Tradition has it that he was put in prison and tortured under Diocletian’s persecution in 303. And, upon attending the Council of Nicaea in 325, he is supposed to have slapped the face of the heretic Arius. The Emperor Justinian dedicated a basilica to him in Constantinople around 430. In terms of hagiography, legends abound (including that of saintly infancy, in which he only nursed once on the fast days of Wednesdays and Fridays — a nice break for his mother). He is the patron saint of sailors, children, and prisoners. One well known story is that he saved three sisters from a life of prostitution by providing their dowries; and thus developed the tradition of gift-giving to children on his feast day. Learn more about Saint Nicholas here. And, here are some ideas for celebrating with your children.
Saturday, December 8: The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
From Celebrating the Saints by Robert Atwell and Christopher L. WEbber:
“This festival in honor of the Conception of the Mother of our Lord is celebrated on this day in both the Eastern and the Western Church. This feast, which dates from the seventh century, marks the dawn of the New Covenant, celebrating the gracious preparation by God of his people to receive their Savior and Lord, putting ‘heaven in ordinary’ and showing that mortal flesh can indeed bring Christ to the world.”
Advent Hymns for the Week (see more here):
December 2: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
December 3: Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
December 4: Creator of the Stars of Night
December 5: Wake, Awake For Night is Flying
December 6: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
December 7: Savior of the Nations, Come
- Here is a post rounding up our simple daily Advent practices — an overview of Advent basics. And, if you missed it, it includes a link to Advent Hymns and Carols
- I’ll post again this link to some fun ways to celebrate St Nicholas on December 6
- For celebrating Mary on December 8th, print out these Life of Mary Coloring Pages from Michelle.
- St. Lucy’s feast day is on the 13th: here is a free crown printable
- And, here are Michelle’s lovely Advent Saint Coloring Pages for St. Nicholas and St. Lucy
- Not a link from our site, but I was thrilled that Auntie Leila from Like Mother, Like Daughter (my favorite blog on the internet) linked to our Advent hymns post here. If you comment on the post, you’ll be entered in a giveaway for Around the Year With the Von Trapp Family, which looks so lovely.
Books to Buy or Borrow:
- Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend – This story elaborates on the idea that Saint Nicholas’ good works and generosity all stemmed from his love for God.
- The Baker’s Dozen – Bley’s favorite St. Nicholas Day story, about a baker who learns to be generous and open-hearted the hard way. The illustrations in this book are stunning.
- Our Favorite Christmas Books