Before setting out a few significant events on this date in history I note that the Christian season of Advent began yesterday. In the Catholic Church this is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year, Advent (from, “ad-venire” in Latin or “to come to”) is the season encompassing the four Sundays (and weekdays) leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. The final days of Advent, from December 17 to December 24, focus particularly on our preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of our Lord (Christmas). Is there a history here? When the feast of the nativity of the Lord was introduced to Rome in the early years of the fourth century, it was celebrated as a simple memorial and was not preceded by a period of preparation. It was not until about the middle of the sixth century, by which time Christmas had become a major solemnity almost on a par with Easter, that the Roman Advent made its appearance. And even then, it was outside of Rome, especially in Spain and Gaul, that the earliest form of Advent appears. (Just to remind – Gaul was a region of Western Europe that was inhabited by Celtic tribes, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine.) The Council of Saragossa in Spain in 380 referred to a three-week period of preparation extending from 17 December to the feast of the Epiphany. It urged the faithful to be assiduous in going to church daily during this time. The Epiphany, like Easter, was a time for the conferring of baptism, and this suggests that the weeks of preparation were conceived mainly in function of the sacrament of initiation. But for all the faithful this was a time of prayer, ascetic effort and assembly in church. Toward the end of the fifth century in Gaul, the three-week period of preparation was extended to forty days. Our earliest witness is Bishop Perpetuus of Tours (died 490) whose regulations on fasting during this period have been preserved. Beginning on the feast of St Martin, 11 November, the period was known as the Lent of St Martin. The name was well chosen for this season since it was strongly penitential in character and lasted forty days. By this time Christmas had replaced Epiphany as the terminus of the time of preparation. The Roman church did not see the need for a prolonged pre-Christmas fast such as existed in Spain and Gaul. When the season of Advent eventually made its appearance, it was liturgical rather than ascetical in character. From the start it was directly oriented to Christmas, not Epiphany, and took its whole meaning from that feast. It had no connection with baptism. Advent was indeed a late development in Rome. It is surprising to learn that Pope St Leo the Great (440-61), who in his preaching developed such a rich theology of Christmas, does not seem to have known a time of Advent. Our earliest witnesses to a Roman Advent are the liturgical books, especially the sacramentaries. Of the latter, the Veronese or Leonine Sacramentary (6th century), which is the earliest of these compilations, does not yet have this liturgical season. The Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries, however, which represent a more developed liturgy, provide formularies for the Sundays of Advent. The primitive form of the Roman Advent, represented by the Gelasian sacramentary, had six weeks before Christmas. This was the practice of some other churches, and is still a feature of the Milanese rite. It was during the pontificate of Pope St Gregory the Great that the number of weeks was reduced to four, and that has remained ever since. So – Have a Blessed Advent and Joyous Christmas Season.
915 – – – – Pope John X crowned Berengar I of Italy as Holy Roman Emperor.
1775 – – – The USS Alfred becomes the first vessel to fly the Grand Union Flag – the precursor to the Stars and Stripes – and the flag was hoisted by John Paul Jones.
1800 – – – U.S. Presidential Election – the Electoral College casts votes for President and Vice President that resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. At the end of a long and bitter campaign, Jefferson and Burr each won 73 electoral votes, Adams won 65 electoral votes, and Pinckney won 64 electoral votes. The Federalists swept New England, the Democratic-Republicans dominated the South, and the parties split the Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Democratic-Republicans’ failure to execute their plan to award Jefferson one more vote than Burr resulted in a tie, which necessitated a contingent election in the House of Representatives. Under the terms laid out in the Constitution, the outgoing House of Representatives chose between Jefferson and Burr. Each state delegation cast one vote, and a victory in the contingent election required one candidate to win a majority of the state delegations. Neither Burr nor Jefferson were able to win on the first 35 ballots of the contingent election, as most Federalist Congressmen backed Burr and all Democratic-Republican Congressmen backed Jefferson. Hamilton personally favored Jefferson over Burr, and he convinced several Federalists to switch their support to Jefferson, giving Jefferson a victory on the 36th ballot of the contingent election. Then but for the three-fifths clause in the Constitution (regarding slaves) for the purpose of congressional apportionment many historians believe Adams would have won. But …
1818 – – – Illinois becomes the 21st state.
1901 – – – In his State of the Union speech President Theodore Roosevelt asking Congress to curb the power of the trusts “within reasonable limits.”
1910 – – – Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show.
1912 – – – Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia sign an armistice with the Ottoman Empire, temporarily halting the First Balkan War. The armistice will expire on February 13, 1913, and hostilities will resume.
1944 – – – Greek Civil War – Fighting breaks out in Athens between the ELAS (communist insurgents) and government forces supported by the British Army. The communists were acting on Stalin’s instructions – until Stalin relinquished this region to the British at Yalta in exchange for a Soviet “zone of influence” from Poland to Romania. And, we should keep in mind that that shameful Yalta deal inspires Putin to think of a “new Yalta” where he would have dominion over, among other lands, Ukraine. So far it is not clear the West will stop his drive toward his “inspiration.”
1952 – – – Former Communist leader of Czechoslovakia, Rudolf Slansky, and 10 top communist officials are executed by hanging in Prague – after a “show trial” on typical Stalinist charges of being foreign spies and Zionist agents. The communist government posthumously exonerated Slansky in 1963 – – that did him a lot of good.
1960 – – – The musical Camelot debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. And we all know it became almost immediately associated with the Kennedys and the Kennedy Administration.(?)
1964 – – – Free Speech Movement – Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest of the UC Regents’ decision to forbid protests on UC property.
1967 – – – At Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, a transplant team headed by Christiaan Barnard carries out the firs heart transplant on a human – – – 53-year-old Louis Washkanasky.
1971 – – – (a) Indo-Pakistani War – Pakistan launches a pre-emptive strike against India and a full-scale war begins claiming hundreds of lives. (b) The Soviet space program’s Mars 3 orbiter releases a descent module. It lands successfully but loses contact, but is the first man-made object to land softly on the surface of Mars.
1973 – – – America’s Pioneer 10 sends back the first close-up images of Jupiter.
1979 – – – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini becomes the first Supreme Leader of Iran.
1989 – – – In a meeting off the coast of Malta, President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev release statements indicating the Cold War may be coming to an end.
1994 – – – PlayStation is released by Sony Computer Entertainment.
2004 – – – The Supreme Court of Ukraine nullified the results of the voting in the presidential election two weeks earlier recognizing systemic fraud as having taken place in an election in which Viktor Yanukovych had been seen as the winner. This was also after the massive crowd of the “Orange Revolution” had filled the streets of downtown Kyiv. After this court ruling the Rada (parliament) scheduled a re-vote in which Viktor Yushchenko was declared the winner. As to the initial voting fraud it was interesting that – as an observer in the far eastern region of Ukraine for the revote – an election official said to me “fewer people actually voting the first time (in his region), but we reported many more votes.”
2014 – – – The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, launches the space explorer Hayabusa2 on a 6-year round trip mission to an asteroid to collect rock samples.
Composed by Robert A. McConnell
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.