The Basilica of Saint Mary
June 26, 2017
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The Basilica of Saint Mary
We are located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Phone: 612.333.1381
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Recent Publications
· Weekly Newsletter
  January 16, 2014
· Parish Bulletin
  December 27, 2013
· BASILICA Magazine
  December 6, 2013
Today's Reading
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Incarnation Cycle


The word Advent is derived from the Latin phrase, Adventus Domini, meaning "the coming of the Lord." Often, this is understood to refer to the first coming of Jesus. Rather, Adventus Domini refers to the coming of the Lord in the past, today and the end of time. The season of Advent is filled with anticipation, not just for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus, the first coming of the Lord, but also the anticipation of current, future and final manifestations.

The liturgical color for Advent is purple. The main liturgical symbol of Advent is the Advent wreath.

Advent Wreath

The origin of the Advent wreath is somewhat obscure. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, a wheel was decorated with candles while prayers were offered for the wheel of the earth to be turned so that light and warmth would return. During the Middle Ages, Christians adopted this ritual and began to use it in domestic settings. By the year 1500, more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath had developed.

For Christians, its symbols of light refer to Christ who is the light that dispels the darkness. While the wheel and the evergreens, which signify eternal life, refer to Christ who is the life of the world. In addition, the four candles symbolize the four weeks of Advent. The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, or Sunday of rejoicing, because the middle of Advent has been reached.


The word Christmas, derived from "Cristes Maesse" really means the "celebration of Christ" or "Christ's feast." This implies that at Christmas, Christians celebrate the fullness of the mystery of Christ, and not just his birth. To compare Christmas with a birthday party is entirely inappropriate.

In the same way as Advent is a mediation on and the anticipation of Christ's coming in the past, the present and the future; Christmas celebrates Christ's birth in this world, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The liturgical color for Christmas is white. The main liturgical symbols are the creche, the evergreens and the pointsettias.

The Manger

Although Saint Francis is often credited with the popularization of the Christmas manger, the custom of erecting some form of a manger long predates this saint. The Basilica of Saint Mary major in Rome, for instance, already had a chapel of the crib by the fifth century. The custom of re-enacting the birth of Jesus with live mangers had its start in eleventh century Christmas plays.

Seeing the child in the crib allows us to meditate on the mystery of God becoming human. In the child, Saint Francis saw the suffering servant: God became human, suffered and died for the salvation of the world.

After the death of Francis, cribs became very popular throughout Europe and eventually throughout the world. Today, Christmas scenes bare the cultural and ethnic marks of many different peoples.

The Christmas Tree

There are reports that ancient Romans decorated trees with small pieces of polished metal during one of their winter festivals. Medieval Christians decorated an evergreen with apples on Christmas Eve, the feast of Adam and Eve, symbolizing the tree of Paradise.

Martin Luther is believed to be the first who brought a tree decorated with candles into the home. A walk through the woods on wintry star-filled night is said to have inspired him.

By the nineteenth century, the custom of decorating a tree in the homes of Christians had become very popular in the West. Today, the custom has spread throughout the world.

© Procession during Advent »
The Advent wreath that hangs in the center of the nave can be seen above the congregation and the ministers during the recessional. – Photo by Michael Jensen. [Close]


The red poinsettia is undoubtedly the premier Christmas flower. Its liturgical use originates in seventeenth century Mexico. According to a legend, a boy by the name of Pablo was on his way to the parish church to visit the nativity set. As he got closer, he realized that he had not brought any gifts for the baby Jesus, a parish custom. Hurriedly, he picked some branches along the roadside and placed them by the crib. As his friends mocked his gift selection, the green branches sprouted brilliant, red star-shaped flowers.

The red color of the flowers symbolizes God's love for the world, sealed in the red blood of Jesus that spilled for the world's salvation on the cross.


The word epiphany is the English version of the Greek "epiphaneia, meaning appearance, revelation or manifestation." The origin of the feast may be traced to the Church in the East and more than likely predates the celebration of Christmas on December 25. Epiphany is celebrated as the culmination and the climax of the incarnation cycle.

On this day we celebrate the manifestation of the baby born in Bethlehem as the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah. Other names for the epiphany in the West are the "twelfth Day of Christmas;" "the twelfth night;" and "Three King's Day."

The symbols of this feast are light, gold, frankincense and myrrh, water, a dove and wine, in addition to all the symbols that the Church has marked the entire incarnation cycle.

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