Last Sunday we began a new liturgical year. If you’ve been attending an Episcopal or Roman Catholic church for a few years you’ll be familiar with the annual cycle that starts four Sundays before Christmas. The Advent (from the Latin for “arrival” or “coming”) season gives us an opportunity to prepare spiritually for the coming of the Christ child into our lives. It’s a peculiarity of our faith that each year we behave as if this has never happened before: we do the same for Holy Week and Easter. Each year we “re-member” the foundational stories of our faith. We don’t just recall the stories: we re-enact them, attempting to experience each event as if for the first time, seeking to enter into the full emotional impact of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, seeking the transformation that comes when we commit ourselves fully to the Way of Love.
In contrast to the world’s frantic pre-Christmas rush, Advent invites us to take a breath, to pause for a moment and allow ourselves to know and feel the love that gives of itself without counting the cost. Our Presiding Bishop has offered one way to observe Advent, using seven different practices: Turn, learn, pray, worship, bless or give, go, and rest. You can do one each day of the week. David Tremaine has copies of a calendar to guide you if you are interested in this idea.
Each season of the church year has its own mood, its own blessing. Observing the liturgical seasons gives our lives a special rhythm and helps us live with intentionality. The Collect of the Day that we pray at the beginning of each Sunday service can also provide some guidance for the week ahead: you will hear the same Collect on the First Sunday of Advent every year, and so on throughout the year. Our Scripture readings follow a three-year cycle, roughly corresponding to the first three Gospels, with portions of John inserted at intervals throughout each year. This year we are reading the Gospel of Luke, so we can look forward to some of the most beloved stories such as the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the story of Martha and Mary.
I hope you will find a way to make this Advent season meaningful, and that, in the words of the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, God will give you “the grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (BCP p.211).
Your sister in Christ,