Advent and Our Liturgy
As many of you know, I have been conducting a class during the Fall called “Liturgy: The Work of the People.” The choice of that topic was not arbitrary. I thought it was important to have an adult formation class focus on the service of Holy Eucharist Rite II for two main reasons: First, it would be good to have a refresher, since we had spent over six months doing Rite 1 Morning Prayer. Second, with the arrival of John as our new Rector, it was natural that there would be some upcoming changes to the way liturgy was conducted at St. John’s. I thought it would be helpful to clearly explain the rationale for why some of those changes would occur. During the course of the class, we looked at both the history of the different elements of the service, as well as the rubrics, so that participants would understand the kind of flexibility we have when doing worship planning, where that flexibility is allowed, and where it isn’t.
One main goal of worship planning is to compose a liturgy that has a distinctly “seasonal feel.” This is a goal because each liturgical season is based around the life and ministry of Christ and contains distinct themes and theological elements associated with it. The more the different elements of the liturgy reflect these seasonal themes, e.g. in the readings, music, and prayers, the greater the probability that people can enter into worship in a deep and connected way.
So here are some of the liturgical changes you will notice as we begin Advent.
1) Liturgical Color: Purple. Purple is a color often associated with royalty, which is appropriate as we prepare for the birth of Christ the King; and also one of penitence, as we prepare our hearts and minds for his arrival.
2) Advent Wreath: There will be an advent wreath with four purple candles, one for each Sunday during Advent, and one white candle in the center which will be lit on the Feast of the Nativity (Dec 25th). The Advent wreath will be lighted each Sunday by a different family.
3) New Song of Praise: Instead of the traditional “Gloria in Excelsis” as the Song of Praise during the Entrance Rite, we will substitute two verses of the Hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” each Sunday, which will be sung by our talented vocalists.
4) New Lectionary Year: We use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) in the Episcopal Church and will begin Year B. During Advent in Year B, the Old Testament readings are from Isaiah and the Gospel readings are from the Gospel of Mark.
5) New Customized Prayers of the People: Participants from the Wednesday Adult Formation Class collaborated to write the prayers of the people that we will use in Advent. Most people don’t realize that we are not bound by the six printed forms in the Prayer Book and that the Prayers of the People can be customized within certain guidelines. Please thank the following people for their efforts: Tracey Campbell, John and Melissa Carter; Kitty Coleman; Jon and Kat Dailey; Rosa Davis; Anne and Reggie Hamner; Mary Helen Mahan; and Will Hill Tankersley.
6) Eucharistic Prayer B: There are four different Eucharist prayers (A, B, C, D). Eucharist Prayer B was chosen because it is best suited for the themes of Advent.
7) Seasonal Blessing: The service will conclude with a seasonal blessing which will reflect the themes of the Advent season and encourage us in particular ways as we go out into the world after church.
8) Music: Even though it is still not safe to engage in congregational singing, you can be confident that Joel and our musicians will do their best to incorporate the seasonal music for Advent in every place they can!
Many blessings for you during this Advent season, and may we all wait expectantly for those things which are hidden from us, to be revealed.