Yesterday morning, I was at St. Michael and All Saints, my local Anglo-Catholic church, singing ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,’ and ‘Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,’ and praying the familiar prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. The vestments and hangings were the traditional deep, rich purple I am accustomed to; the priest lit a candle on the Advent wreath and prayed a prayer. His preaching reminded us that even when we feel like God is far away and has turned his face from us, He is ever near us, as He demonstrated most potently in His coming as Christ and will demonstrate again in the promised return of Christ.
Yesterday afternoon, J and I joined some friends at the opening of the Nativity scene in St. Andrew’s Square here in Edinburgh. To celebrate this event, a gospel choir sang some carols, Cardinal O’Brien prayed a prayer, the Sisters of Charity were there in their saris and wimples collecting money for the poor.
It was dark well before the event was finished (sundown is now before 4:00 PM in Edinburgh). We all went to the German Christmas Market in Princes St. Gardens and learned from a real German which food is really good and worth buying. I tried Heisse Liebe for the first time — mulled wine with a shot of rum in it. Very tasty. All Edinburgh was and is alight with Christmas lights strung from trees, the lit-up Ferris Wheel in full spin, the decorations hanging from lamp-posts, the Norwegian Pine shining proudly on the Mound in front of New College.
J and I went home where we lit our own Advent wreath for the first time. We prayed prayers and did readings that I had written/compiled, including a passage from JP2 about Advent from the Mosaic Holy Bible and the BCP Collect for Advent I. Tonight we shall light the wreath again, remembering the hope Christ is in the darkness of this transitory life. Our reading shall be a passage from the Nativity Sermon out of the Book of Homilies.
I’m still looking for passages to fill up most of the days of weeks 2-4 of Advent, so if you have any Advent readings you think I should do, pass them along!
My work has been taking on a decidedly Advently turn, itself. Besides the endless quest for manuscripts, I have just finished Leo’s sermons for the December fast and am now ready to move on to the Nativity Sermons.
And so Advent has begun. We look ahead with excitement and anticipation for what is the biggest holiday of our culture, and as Christians we remember daily at this time that birth ‘singularly wonderful and wonderfully singular’ (Leo’s Tome) in time of the timeless, eternal God Who comes to us to show us His great love as much now as in Bethlehem, as much in the darkness of our pain as in the sorrow of Good Friday.