Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Four-week season of Advent starts tomorrow

The season of Advent, a four-week-long period of preparation for Christmas, begins tomorrow for Christians whose churches follow a liturgical year.

Advent is observed by some Christians as a time of reflection and waiting in anticipation of the coming of Christ.

Customs include lighting the Advent wreath, an arrangement of four candles, one for each Sunday of the season.

To prepare for Christmas, Eastern Orthodox Christians observe a 40-day Nativity fast which began this year on Nov. 15.

While others celebrate the days leading up to Christmas by eating and drinking, the Orthodox abstain from meat and dairy products and intensify their prayers and acts of charity.

The fast, which dates to the 9th century, also calls for abstinence from all food and drink, including water, on Christmas Eve.

Local Advent observances include the 15th annual Festival of Lights program at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the historic barn on the campus of Flower Hospital, 5200 Harroun Rd., Sylvania.

The program will feature a service, music by the Epworth United Methodist Church Choir, holiday caroling, children's stories by Dr. Herbert H. Sandberg, and lighting of a 50-foot tree atop the hospital.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2272 Collingwood Blvd., will hold a pre-Advent “quiet retreat” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the church. There will be several presentations and time for silence, meditation, journaling, craft-making, or reflective conversation.

Internationally known architect and artist Santiago Calatrava has been chosen to design Christ the Light Cathedral for the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif. Spiritual home to more than 500,000 Catholics in the Bay Area, the cathedral will replace St. Frances de Sales, which was demolished due to damage sustained in the 1989 earthquake.

Mr. Calatrava, 49, a native of Benimamet, Spain, was selected from a field of 10 architects. His most celebrated works include BCE Place in Toronto, Canada; Alamillo Bridge in Seville, Spain; the airport railway station in Lyon, France, and the Velodrome Football Stadium in Marseilles, France. His first U.S. work, the expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum, will be inaugurated next summer.

“The idea for Oakland was for a building that would be like a pair of hands,” Mr. Calatrava said. “The hands can be brought together in a prayer or they can be opened to the sky. The building is then not a closed thing. It's a vertical link between Earth and sky, to go with the horizontal movement of people coming in and out.”

The diocese has not yet specified a budget or funding details for the project.

The pamphlet, which is being sent to schools and posted on its Web page (, says the U.S. Constitution prohibits “school-sponsored endorsement or promotion of religious beliefs of any kind.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on many specific issues, the league bases its interpretations largely on the court's general principles and decisions by lower federal courts.

Classes may discuss cultural aspects of religious holidays, according to the league, but shouldn't cover just one holiday or religion. For instance, it suggests that in December, schools could study Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bill of Rights Day, and Buddhist Bodhi Day.

Patriarch Maxim, leader of Bulgaria's Orthodox Church, has refused to invite Pope John Paul II to come to his Balkan country, even though Bulgarian government is eager for a papal visit.

A spokesman for Bulgaria's Holy Synod told the Associated Press that the patriarch declined to extend an invitation to the Pope during a Nov. 25 meeting with the Vatican's top ecumenical official, Cardinal Edward Cassidy.

The Pope also would like to visit Greece, where the Orthodox Holy Synod plans to discuss the matter. Last year the synod opposed any visit, and Greek churchmen indicate conditions may be worse now due to setbacks at recent international Catholic-Orthodox talks in Emmitsburg, Md.

The Pope is highly unlikely to visit either nation without Orthodox assent.

The United Methodist Church finance agency approved an emergency grant of $400,000 to help bail out the financially troubled National Council of Churches, the Methodist news service reported.

In September, the council's other major funder, the Presbyterian Church (USA), provided a special $400,000 grant beyond regular dues.

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