Advent Observed with the Sonnets of Malcolm Guite
November 28, 2014
Happy New Year! Sunday, November 30, marks the beginning of the new Christian year and the first Sunday in Advent. This year Epworth Chapel on the Green will add something new to our observance of the season.
As in years past, we will recite the O Antiphons each Sunday at the lighting of the Advent candles, but this year the tradition will be enriched by the poetry of the English priest/poet Malcolm Guite. Each Sunday we will hear one of the sonnets on the O Antiphons from his book Sounding the Seasons, 70 Sonnets for the Christian Year.
This Sunday we will hear the Antiphons:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things; come, and teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai; come, and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
And the Malcolm Guite sonnet:
I cannot think unless I have been thought,
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken;
I cannot teach except as I am taught,
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak,
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,
O Memory of time, reminding me,
My Ground of Being, always grounding me,
My Maker's bounding line, defining me,
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything.
Just when the secular calendar year is winding down, we come to the beginning of a whole new year in the Christian calendar. The season of Advent, that glorious time when the world prepares anew for the coming of its Saviour. But even more than preparation— with its emphasis on working and doing things and getting ready, Advent is about waiting— waiting for the longed-for Messiah who would save His people.
Our world isn't much into waiting. As a matter-of-fact, instant gratification is one of the hallmarks of today's society. But I-have-to-have-it-right-now is not a scriptural concept. The Bible teaches waiting in faith that God will fulfill His promises in His time. And so, while all those around us are caught up in Christmas parties and Christmas shopping and Christmas decorations, we will attempt to prepare our heads and our hearts by making the season a spiritual journey just as Mary and Joseph made an earthly journey to prepare for the first Christmas.
The sense of waiting and expectancy is particularly evident in our music as we refrain from singing Christmas carols until Christmas arrives— but then we sing them for the whole Twelve Days of Christmas— so this Sunday we will be singing the wonderful Advent Hymns:
When the King Shall Come Again
Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending
Hark! The Glad Sound
Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
God of Grace, and God of Glory
Do join us at 10:00 and help us bring in the New Year with poetry, song and Holy Communion. Everyone will be given a book of Advent and Christmas Devotional readings to enrich your own prayer time this season as well.