Transitioning to Advent

Advent is coming… just over two weeks from now we’ll be donning the purple and keeping watch for the four-fold arrival of Christ: in his Nativity, in his Sacraments, in the hearts of his faithful people, and in power and great glory upon his bodily return.

To be fair, I’ve only ever heard of a “three-fold” advent, with different sources choosing either the Sacraments or the believer’s heart.  But I’m not going to get into that here and now.

The changing of the seasons, liturgically speaking, is never sudden.  Each season, or sub-season, has its transition markers.  The modern calendar is a little rougher ’round the edges than the traditional lectionary, but the approach toward Advent is a smooth one in both systems.

in the traditional calendar & lectionary

The Trinitytide Collects & lessons follow an upward path of spiritual growth and maturity, culminating in the ultimate goal of Christian perfection via union with Christ.  The natural response to such a progression is to issue a call to labor, to strive for that perfection, to prepare ourselves for that union with Christ, which is very much in line with Advent’s call to “keep watch.”  Further, the Last Sunday before Advent is a fitting close for the Trinitytide themes and a herald of the Advent season to come.  It’s hardly a stretch to see it as a sort of “Christ the King Sunday” like what we have in the modern calendar.

in the modern calendar & lectionary

The sequential Gospel and Epistle lessons approach their end through the month of November.  In each of the three years, the final weeks before Advent take us into the eschatological discourse of Jesus, looking at the “signs of the end” and his eventual bodily return.  This actually steps on the toes of the traditional Advent season, and opens up the modern Advent to a slightly heavier focus on the upcoming Nativity of Jesus.  So in a way, the modern calendar begins the Advent themes as many as three weeks early.  It’s such a smooth transition that there was actually an “Advent Project” some years ago, advocating for a 7-week Advent, like the Church had in Late Antiquity.  Feel free to peruse that site, but be warned that it contains much that is theologically and liturgically liberal, perhaps inappropriate for a healthy Christian congregation.

I’m wearing black today

It occurs to me that the lessons and collect for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day (in the ACNA’s Sunday & Holy Day lectionary) give them a feel not unlike the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (popularly, All Souls Day). I haven’t double-checked, but I suspect most of these lessons are also options for our Burial service.
In which case, it seems that the funeral colors (black is traditional, white is modern(ist)) would be reasonable options for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.
Obviously, as Anglicans, and especially under the modern calendar with less connection to the 1,500 years of recorded liturgical history, vestment color schemes are in the “a diaphora” category that are not regulated by canon law – we do have freedom of choice here. In that spirit of freedom, and awareness of what our modern lectionary is doing, I decided I’m wearing a black stole today, to celebrate Veterans Day.

The Lost Sunday

One of the downsides of the modern calendar is that the same Sunday almost always gets overridden by All Saints’ Day when it’s transferred to Sunday.  Occasionally it’s the Sunday before that gets missed, but usually it’s this one, the “Sunday closest to November 2” or “between October 30 and November 5” or “Proper 26” (depending upon what book you’re looking in).  The Collect, which we at least get in the Daily Office for the rest of this week starting this morning is:

Grant us Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

It’s a lovely Collect, drawing heavily from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, and it’s a shame that most of our congregations will miss hearing it most years.  If you have a mid-week Communion service, and you celebrated All Saints’ back on Sunday, the “lost” Sunday Propers (collect & lessons) are highly recommended!

Kings & Chronicles mixed together

The Daily Lectionary of the Anglican Church in North America is nearing its final form.  It has gone through two extremely different editions in the past couple years, and has seen two or three version of its third incarnation this year.  You can tell from the nature of its revisions that the committee and the bishops are getting very close to finalizing it.

If you’ve been reading along with it lately, you’ve been in the historical books for a while, currently in the middle of 2 Kings.  There has been the occasional interruption from 1 & 2 Chronicles last month and this, there’s another one coming tomorrow, and several more over the next two weeks.  Especially if you’re using a physical copy of the Bible (as opposed to reading the Office online) this might be something of a nuisance.  But the reasons for this minor inconvenience are actually quite sound.

  1. Although the overlap between the books of Samuel and Kings and the books of Chronicles is enormous, there is unique material in each of them.
  2. The books of Samuel & Kings together cover more detail than the books of Chronicles, so they get the primary coverage.
  3. The books of Chronicles, therefore, have excerpts interspersed among Kings & Chronicles in order to fill the few gaps left.

There are two simpler alternatives to this plan:

  1. Skip 1 & 2 Chronicles entirely.  This is what the original Prayer Book daily lectionaries did.
  2. Read 1 & 2 Chronicles all the way through.  This brings the lectionary’s average reading length up, as there’s more to cover in the year.

So yes, although book-skipping like this can make the narrative a little tougher to follow, and the logistics of using your bookmarkers a little more complicated, this lectionary is following a sensible plan with good reason.  If you’re the kind of person who wants a perfectly “completionist” daily lectionary, then the liturgical tradition is inevitably going to disappoint you a little bit.  However, there’s nothing stopping you from “filling in the gaps”, as it were, on your own.  Midday Prayer, for example, is an excellent daily opportunity to read from material that the daily lectionary omits.

If that’s something you’re interested in, be sure to check back in here next year, because once the daily lectionary is finalized and published I’m going to be working on a supplementary daily lectionary for Midday Prayer that inserts all the chapters from the Old Testament and Ecclesiastical Books that the daily lectionary leaves out.  It’s already outlined, I just need to see the final edition before I can build around it.  So if you’re a fan of the books of Chronicles, hang in there, I’ve got your back!