This coming Sunday, November 27th, is the First Sunday in Advent. Advent, in the western liturgical calendar, is the start of the liturgical year. That makes it the liturgical New Year! I have to confess that I’ve never heard of anyone making a liturgical New Year’s resolution. Nonetheless, perhaps Advent is just the time to start, anyway.
After all, it’s the lead up to Christmas, ‘another year over / a new one’s just begun’, as John Lennon says. In December we often look back not so much over the past year but over past Decembers and past Christmases; hopefully with fondness, sometimes with sorrow. As we survey the history of ourselves, the history of our spiritual lives, hopefully we can seek out ways to draw nearer to our Lord Jesus — and the Daily Office as we promote here is just one way.
For the more liturgically- or traditionally-minded, Advent is historically a season of introspection and fasting in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity. Today it seems to be an extended Christmas (that cuts the real 12 days of the feast short!) — a time of office Christmas parties, commercial hubbub, the usual round of Christmas films and Christmas music, and special Christmas services at church (sometimes as early as mid-month!). The Daily Office can break that feeling of an extended, secularised, December-long Christmas.
Perhaps by recentring our days around the ancient Christian cycle of prayer, we can recentre our Advent. And by recentring Advent, we can recentre our lives. Not only will praying the Office for Advent make us appreciate Christmas more, it will help us put Jesus into the rhythms of life, bringing us into contact with him every day, making Him the centre — as the popular worship song has it, ‘Jesus, be the centre’.
When we pray, say, Morning Prayer, we encounter Christ in the confession of sin; we acknowledge the Trinity in the repeated invocation, ‘Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’; we praise the Lord quite explicitly in the versicles, antiphons, and Venite; we encounter Christ in the ancient Christian hymn, ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ (on which I blogged a while ago); we look for Christ’s coming through the Bedictus — the hymn of John the Baptist’s father; in the First and Second lessons we meet with Christ, God the Word, through the word of Scripture; we confess Christ in the Creed; we beseech His mercy; we pray the prayer Christ taught us; we entreat Him in varying way through the Collect of the Day (seasonally appropriate!); and, in one form of words or another, at the close of every prayer, we make our requests through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Morning Prayer makes Jesus the centre of the day. The rest of the offices help keep Him there for us.
Are you seeking the refreshment Christ offers to those who are weary and heavy-laden? Are you seeking to re-engage the historic spirituality of the church? Are you interested in trying something new to bring Christ to the centre of your life and worship? Do you want to find a pattern of devotion that can bring you through Advent to Christmas, and from Christmas through the rest of the year? Perhaps you have found it here, friend.
Join us. Come and see.
~ MJH ~