There are several things I want to share with the Cathedral Community on this Thanksgiving Eve, and in anticipation of the beginning of Advent (can you believe it) this coming Sunday.
About Thanksgiving: I believe it is a wonderful thing to be intentional in reflecting on the people and circumstances for which we are thankful. I believe it is a spiritually dangerous thing to think that we can actually count our blessings. If we start out numbering and find that we reach a certain finite figure, the only thing we will know for sure is that we have reached the capacity of our immediate recollection. No matter the circumstances of one’s life, the effort to “count blessings” is tantamount to trying to count the number of grains of sand on the beach one-by-one. Ultimately such an endeavor will leave us frustrated, and we risk losing our ability to look at the whole of the beach and the magnificent convergence of sky, sand and sea, dunes and tides, dusks and dawns. It is a far better thing to know that the breadth and depth of God’s blessings eclipse something as uncountable as the sands, and to give thanks, than to lose a lifetime in the self-absorbing task of numbering them.
Advent begins across the Church this coming Sunday. Recall with me that the focus of the season is preparation, not penitence (that’s Lent). As a way of preparing, our worship will be composed of some elements unique to the season and one or two that are simply new to many of us in the context of our Sabbath worship.
Returning to our Advent worship will be a form of the Prayers of the People that we have been crafting here over the past two Advent seasons. It is built on the O Antiphons which have been a traditional part of Advent for centuries. Modern familiarity with the O Antiphons comes in the singing of the hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” The return of the Advent responsory at the beginning of the liturgy signals an invitation to cast aside the manic pace of the season foisted on us in advertisement and merchandizing.
New to this year’s Advent experience will be the use of a Eucharistic Prayer from the Episcopal Church’s supplemental volume titled, Enriching Our Worship. Supplemental volumes of liturgical texts are not new in the life of the Church. The Church of England and Anglican Church of Canada have been offering such resources to the worshipping community for decades. Enriching Our Worship is a volume that makes sound use of ancient and traditional liturgical structures while employing a broader scope of biblical images in the text of the prayers. Language, as we all know, is never static, but always changing. Enriching Our Worship has brought to our liturgy prayers which reflect greater balance in gender, and other ways, using imagery present in the Scriptures but not often applied for various reasons.
An undeniable part of the Advent season is the telling and retelling of the events that foretell and prepare us for the Messiah’s birth. Mary and her role, along with that of Elizabeth, are so integral to this narrative. Eucharistic Prayer 2, which is the one we will be using, picks up on the mothering image is a way that resonates for me with role of these vital women. The strong movement of the Spirit in creation and the Incarnation is present as well.
We pray you find this worship inviting you ever deeper into the mystery of God and the transforming holiness of the season.
With thanksgivings for you all,