One of the houses in the village has put up its Christmas lights. The pubs and shops are now Christmas-themed, and the town's Christmas lights are on.... However, today is in fact the first Sunday of Advent.
We think it important to keep our Advent Celebrations quite distinct from our Christmas Celebrations - though they are related, they are two different seasons of the Church's cycle, with different themes and moods. Advent is a time of preparation and penance: Repent and believe the Gospel!
So we mark Advent by saying our prayers around the Advent Wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel and having a reading as we add another character to our Jesse Tree. We will also say the wonderful collect from the traditional Roman rite of the Mass:
Arise in thy strength we beseech thee O Lord and come; from the dangers which threaten us because of our sins, be thy presence our sure defence, be thy deliverance our safety for ever more.
For those who have been following my introduction to Liturgical Latin, I should, of course, quote the collect in Latin. too:
Excita, quǽsumus, Dómine, poténtiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminéntibus peccatórum nostrórum perículis, te mereámur protegénte éripi, te liberánte salvári.
The Marian Antiphon changes today from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which we will sing until the Feast of the Purification (February 2nd).
Alma Redemptoris Mater
Alma redemptoris mater,
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris succurre cadenti
surgere qui curat populo.
Tu quae genuisti,
tuum sanctum Genitorem.
Virgo prius, ac posterius,
Gabrielis ab ore,
summens illud ave,
Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.
(Translated by Blessed John Henry Newman)
(For those who prefer a more contemporary sound, try The Dogma Dogs: It's Lent - but note that this is not for Liturgical Use!)
So today we will be out in the frost, collecting holly for the wreath, up in the attic looking for the advent calendars, Jesse Tree book etc, and I will be singing the Alma Redemptoris throughout the day...
This year, Anna has also prepared a Jesse Tree blog, so that Ant and Bernie, at their respective universities, can be with us spiritually at the end of each day as we recall Salvation History.