“St. Martin’s Lent” and Advent
On November 11th, Mother Church celebrates the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, also called “Martinmas.” It was a feast day which marked the meteorological beginning of winter. It was a time to celebrate, drink, and lay in the winter’s provisions. Devotion to St. Martin was huge in the Middle Ages, with more than 3,600 churches dedicated to him in France alone. Martin was much-loved across Christian Europe, and in the decades leading up to the year 600, dioceses all over the west adopted the practice of fasting from St. Martin’s Day until Christmas on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in imitation of the forty days before Easter. It was known as “St. Martin’s Lent,” and was later abbreviated to four weeks to become what we know as the Advent Season. In keeping with the day before a season of fasting, “Martinmas” was a day of feasting. Farmers slaughtered their meat animals and paid their taxes and tithes. The traditional dinner for the feast was goose, which is in reference to the legend of Martin hiding is a stable full of geese to hide from the people who were looking for him to make him their bishop. It is sad that we do not have such reluctant bishops today!
Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “to arrive” or “to come.” Advent is considered the beginning of the Christian Church Year for most churches in the Western Tradition, which includes Anglicans. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Andrew (who was the first Disciple called by Jesus) on November 30, and it ends on Christmas Eve – December 24. If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown. Christmas is focused on the “Incarnation” – the birth of Jesus. Advent is about waiting for the birth, while being focused primarily on His second coming, at the end of time, as we know it. The Lectionary Readings from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer emphasizes the coming of the Messiah who comes to judge the world and redeem His people. Advent is a preparation for the final encounter of the world with the return of the Messiah, when He will come again to judge “both the living and the dead” as stated in the Creeds. The Gospel appointed for the last Sunday of Advent changes the focus to the Incarnation, the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Many churches have an “Advent wreath” in their worship during this time. The candles symbolize the light of God entering the world through the birth of Jesus, while the candlelight reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world that comes into the darkness of our lives. We are reminded that we are also called to be a light to the world as we reflect the Light of the Love of God and Hus grace to others. Perhaps reclaiming a bit of the penitential aspect of Advent might redirect our attention to the mystery of the Incarnation – Immanuel – God with us. Martin’s acts of Charity fulfilled the Gospel injunction, “inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Matt. 25: 40).
Even though “Martinmas” is no longer the beginning of Advent, it can still be like a signpost to remind us to start thinking about Advent and Christmas.
Sources: http://fullhomelydivinity.org/articles/advent.htmhttps://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2007/11/11/saint-martins-lent/https://www.facebook.com/St-Chads-Anglican-Church-San-Antonio-Texas-109293599091255/? tn__=%2Cd%2CPR&eid=ARByAFRyk5UNvllq5mRfMv550hEppq0zqif78ZFcCRDXFeRfZkx_1Zv0cSI 9w2_qI6OSEwJpjT4Pl844