Advent Procession with Carols on the First Sunday of Advent

December 3, 2007 at 5:41 pm | Posted in Advent, Architecture, Candles, Carols, Cathedral, Chapel, Christ Church, Christianity, Church, Collect, England, Gothic, Oxford, Oxford University, Prayer, Preparation, Procession, Service, Tudor | 2 Comments

Yesterday, Advent began with a moving candlelit evening service in school Chapel. I do not take photos during church services, but we spent the earlier part of the First Sunday of Advent in Oxford, so I have chosen to show you a picture I took in April in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

This view captures the beautiful interplay between natural springtime daylight reflecting off, and darkness embedded within, medieval hand-carved surfaces:

Christ Church Cathedral Oxford

Advent is a time when contrasts are exposed: between light and dark, good and evil, revelation and mystery, preparation and surprise. Thoughts of this season are collected together in this prayer written more than half a millennium ago, and still meaningful today:

Collect of the Day: First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God,
Give us grace,
That we may cast away the works of darkness
And put upon us the armour of light,
Now in the time of this mortal life.
(In the which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility;)
That in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
To judge both the quick and the dead,
We may rise to the life immortal,
Through him who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Ghost now and for ever:

I never fail to be inspired by that collect. Written by Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, it is as powerful now as it must have been in Tudor times.

Certainly, those ancient words spring forth as though inscribed in my heart. This most appealing prayer inspires action. It is not the kind of text you can just hear in a medieval setting and gloss over with a ” … ho-hum …”.

Now, when we are walking home from school in pitch darkness, putting upon us the armour of light means a lot more than that phrase would during the height of a pleasant summer’s afternoon! Context heightens experiences, and the benefits of light illustrated by candlelit processions during the short, cold, dark days of Northern European winters are clear to all.

Later, in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the collect became the Advent Collect, to be read every day of this preparatory season, the start of the Church’s new year, during which time Christians make ready for the coming of Christ—annually at Christmas and eventually ultimately. There are more modern versions of the text, but I grew up with the original above and that is how it echoes the noble call to peaceful arms for me.

Happy New Year!

(Update to answer a question: red highlights on the arch are optical effects—produced by clear glass, I think, as there are no high stained glass windows on north and south, as far as I can remember.  I could be wrong … Tomorrow I shall post a few more photos of the outstanding chancel ceiling and see if I can find the answer 😉 )



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  1. And Happy New Year to you from (chilly) California!

  2. Thanks, Breen. Say Hi to all at St. Bede’s from me. This year will be our family’s first Christmas in Europe, and the kids have no idea what to expect. I shall try to capture the flavour of the preparations and the festive season here as it happens.

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