Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent 2014

Grant unto us, O Lord, we beseech thee: so to wait for thy loving-kindness in the midst of thy temple; that in readiness of heart and mind we may hail the coming feast of our redemption.
Post-Communion Prayer - Advent I
Saram Rite Anglican Missal
Today is the First Sunday in Advent, that period when in many Christian church preparations are made spiritually for the coming Christmastide.  A minor penitential period, it is meant as a time of reflection and mediation - and also as a build up to the second greatest feast of the Christian calendar.  The readings, introits, graduals, prayers and hymns all point to the coming birth and the redemptive nature of that birth.  I have written in the past about both the religious tradition of the Advent Wreath and the more secular Advent Calendar that are connected with the season of Adventtide.

Once again I'm lighting my virtual Advent Wreath and as I did last year including an Advent Carol to mark the day.  In other posts I have spoken of the tendency to think of carols as being a Christmastide form but they were originally intended for use outside the church - in processions or even dances to celebrate the various joyous feasts of the Church calendar. 

Given that so many of the Christian Advent traditions stem from the Lutheran church it is seems appropriate to begin the season with an old Lutheran carol.

A memorial to Frans Michael Franzén,
poet and clergyman, in his hometown of
Oulu, Finland.  
Set to an old Swedish folk melody that dates circa 1560, Prepare the Royal Highway (Bereden väg för Herran) was written by Frans Michael Franzén, a Swedish-Finnish Lutheran clergyman, teacher and poet.  A member of the Swedish Academy and one time Bishop of Härnösand, he provided the lyrics for some twenty or more hymns in the Swedish Lutheran hymn book.

The tune  first appeared in Swenska Psalmboken a hymnal published in Stockholm in 1697; Franzén's lyrics were added in the 1812 edition.  It became a favourite and has appeared in almost every Lutheran hymn book since.  It appears that the original 6/8 meter was considered too secular at one point and it was changed to 4/4 in many Lutheran publications, including as I understand it, the Lutheran Service Book published in 2006*.  Fortunately more recent practice - including this arrangement with a tambourine by Timothy Shaw - has returned it to its joyful dance-like origins - more befitting of a true carol.


As well as the wreath and carols a tradition of my virtual observance of the season for the past seven years has been to open a window on my friend Larry's Advent Calendar.  In previous years he has revealed the often hidden sights of Rome, his adopted city - doors, windows, fountains, angels.  This year he's opening the stable door, as it where.  A left click on the picture below will take your directly to his Advent Calendar for 2014.

I'll be posting a link on my sidebar so that should you wish you may join me in opening another window each day leading up to December 25th.

The design for my Advent wreath was adapted from an icon on the website of the Convent van Betlehem in the Netherlands.  The sisters have been a presence in Duffel since they took refuge there during the religious wars in the 1600s.  Unfortunately I've not been able to find out much about the order in English but their history looks to be a fascinating one and I must try and do some research at a later date.

November 30 - 1786: The Grand Duchy of Tuscany, under Pietro Leopoldo I, becomes the first modern state to abolish the death penalty (later commemorated as Cities for Life Day).

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