Wednesday, 2 December 2015

29 November 2015


Today is Advent Sunday, the start of the church’s year when we begin a time of preparation for Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

 

The choir begins the service by singing the Matin Responsory:

I look from afar; and lo! I see the power of God coming, and a cloud covering the whole earth; go ye out to meet him and say “Tell us! art thou he that should come to reign over thy people Israel? High and low, rich and poor, one with another, Go ye out to meet him and say: Hear, O thou shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep: Tell us, art thou he that should come? Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come to reign over thy people Israel.

 

The text is from the old Latin service of Matins and is based on the odd verses of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and the doxology (Glory be to the Father ...); this setting is adapted from Palestrina.

 

The words remind us that Advent is a time of penitence, anticipation and hope, when the church prepares to celebrate the coming of the Messiah, which means an anointed one. We await the return of Christ as judge and king, reigning over the whole world but also judging the people of the earth as well. During Advent we reflect on the last judgment, often through the parable of the sheep and goats in St Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 25).

 

In our preparation for the coming of the messiah the church encourages us to consider our lives and to make ourselves ready spiritually: the traditional way of doing this was through fasting and making confession.  We need to remember that as well as anticipating the coming of the Saviour with joy, we should also prepare for it with repentance. This theme is reflected in the motet at communion which has words taken from Psalm 25 and set to music by Richard Farrant (c1530-1580): Call to remembrance, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindness which have been ever of old; O remember not the sins and offences of my youth , but according to thy mercy, think thou on me, O Lord, for thy goodness.

 

The organ voluntary is the Fugue in E flat BWV 552 “St Anne” from J S Bach’s Clavier-Übung III.