I spent a lovely Thanksgiving with the Holy Cross brothers at their monastery in West Park on the Hudson. Arrived in time for dinner on Wednesday night and stayed till Saturday morning, when I had to return to Danbury for a late afternoon memorial service.
At Vespers Friday evening, it suddenly occurred to me: this was the Last Vespers of the liturgical year. Saturday evening would be First Vespers of Advent, which in the Christian calendar is the beginning of the new year. I was sorry not to be able to stay for First Vespers, and got in touch with feelings of missing the liturgical calendar.
This is the first Advent since 1998 that I’ve been removed from a liturgical setting. For seven years at First Parish Church, and then for two with CHS, the seasons of the church year were an integral part of our life together. At First Parish, in fact, I often preached on the First Sunday of Advent, since it usually coincided with the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a Sunday generally falling to the Associate Minister. I never minded preaching that Sunday – in fact it was a privilege – and it got me into a reflective spirit for the coming season. This past Sunday, in contrast, I took as a rare “Sunday off” – and it has left me feeling strangely ungrounded.
No doubt I’ll be able to catch up. I do have a tiny set of Advent candles in my prayer corner, and am reading daily from Sam Portaro’s book, Daysprings: Meditations for the Weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter. And in church this Sunday, I’m preaching on “The Demons of Advent” (a title borrowed from my friend Victor Carpenter) about the holiday blues, but also about the liturgical year. It hadn’t occurred to me to set up an Advent wreath in this UU congregation until our DRE asked me about it this week. With her encouragement, I’ll do it – reminding myself that there was always an Advent wreath at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, a non-Christian congregation.
Now there’s only one thing left to figure out: Advent is a time for looking inward, for repentance and reflection. In past years, I’ve welcomed the chance to do that this time of year. But after a year that’s been positively saturated in self-reflection and discernment, I hear an inner voice of resistance: “Please – no more of that for a while!” What will I do instead, to move into this season?