One of my fondest memories of the Christmas Season was when I was in the Seminary at St. Meinrad. Advent there was a very liturgical season. The first Sunday of Advent came in the last week of November, and it was on this Sunday the Advent Wreath with its four candles was blessed. I can still hear the beautiful Gregorian chant of the monks “O’Come, O’Come, Emmanuel.” Each Sunday, thereafter, another candle was lit and the growing anticipation of Christmas vacation and going home was on everyone’s mind. While at home for Christmas vacation, the seminarians were always asked to serve Midnight Mass. The ceremony really captured the true meaning of Christmas. The lights in the church were turned off, and only the candles beautifully illuminated the altar. In the entrance procession, the servers would carry the Christ Child to be placed in the crib scene and the organ would play that familiar tune “O’Come, O’Come, Emmanuel” as we marched down the aisle.
Over the years we have attended many Midnight Masses with our children to repeat this beautiful memory. Our home has always had the Advent Wreath to remind us four weeks before Christmas, the coming of the Christ Child. One of the traditions was that the oldest child would light the wreath and the youngest would blow it out. As you might imagine there was always an argument, so we finally went in alphabetical order - that was easy, Anne, Butch, Catherine, David and Eric.
My wife, Patty, gives each of our children and their families an Advent Wreath – so that they might carry on this tradition in their family. Our families and our lives have been filled with many blessings. We will have 40 at our Christmas table this year and are looking forward to being with our 19 grandchildren. We hope you and your family will help bring Christ back into Christmas and maybe listen really close for that familiar chant “O’Come, O’Come, Emmanuel.”
Bernie Niehaus is a lifelong resident of Vincennes. He is an alumnus of St. Meinrad Seminary and Chairman of the Board of the Niehaus Companies.