Advent used to be a significantly longer season. It was often called St Martin's Lent because it began around the Feast of St Martin of Tours on November 11. After the octave of commemorations for All Saints and All Souls and the celebrations of the new year in the Celtic world over the three days of October 31 to November 2, Advent commenced.
We hear apocalyptic echoes of that longer Advent in our lectionary gospel readings beginning this Sunday upcoming, November 12, which under that archaic practice would be the first Sunday in Advent. As we turn our hearts and minds toward Advent, it's good to remind ourselves that it's a season about preparing for the multiple comings of Christ into the world.
These arrivals of Christ are typically understood as threefold: the coming of Christ as a human baby; the coming of Christ to us in each and every Eucharist; the coming of Christ in glory at the culmination of history. Christ is well and truly coming into the world all the time. Just as we prepare ourselves for each Eucharist, we also prepare ourselves for the commemoration of God's entrance into human history at Christmas and reflect on what ultimately matters most in light of the finitude of human history within God's eternity.
Keeping Advent well is definitely countercultural to the busyness that characterizes the frenzied preparations in many places for "commercial Christmas." Our tradition gives us a distinctive and beautiful contemplative and non-anxious space in the season of Advent.
To help us make an intentional and contemplative beginning to what we now keep as a shorter Advent, starting four Sundays before Christmas, the Reverend Robyn M. Neville, PhD, director of our diocesan Center for Christian Formation and Leadership (https://www.diosef.org/ccfl) will lead us in an Advent Quiet Morning on Saturday, December 2 from 9 AM to 12 PM. The beauty and significance of the stained glass windows of St Paul's, Key West will be the focus.
Dr Neville, a doctoral colleague of mine during our days in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University, has entitled her time with us, "'Bright is the noble work': seeking God's light through stained glass and the soul." She's told me that that first part comes from Abbot Suger of St Denis in his 12th-century De Administratione. In that work he discusses the theological reasons for including stained glass windows in church buildings.
+Robyn is preparing for her time with us by reading the stories of the windows of St Paul's in The Golden Cockerel by our own Winifred Shine Fryzel of blessed memory. She envisions our morning together as starting in the parish hall with some historical background on the importance of stained glass windows in Christian history. Then we'll move into the nave and focus on the stained glass there "as a means for finding the light of God in the church, in the world, and in our hearts," she says. We'll engage, she further says, in several "spiritual practices throughout the morning, such as journaling, contemplative breathing, prayer, art, and learning. Please bring a journal or something to write in."
It isn't necessary to give advance notice that you'll attend, but if you would email the church office at to let us know you plan to be there, we can make sure to have plenty of materials for everyone.
Please consider commencing your Advent with this contemplative morning. I believe you'll be glad that you did.