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Hallo again to all.

While at a recent Advent Lessons and Carols, we were reminded of a portion of the trio section from Haydn's 'The Heavens are Telling' that goes:

In all the lands resounds the Word. Latin Vulgate with the Annunciation

Never unperceived, ever understood,

ever, ever, ever understood.

We have sung this section in performance (as part of a choir), and we have always been struck by how easy it is to transpose the 'never' and 'ever', resulting in a Word that is ever unperceived and never understood. In our more jaundiced moments, we suspect this may be a more accurate assessment of the matter vis-à-vis humanity and God.

Nevertheless, a joyous sequence of lesson and carols, punctuated by the children's choir performing adorably, put paid to any Grinchiness of the heart. Instead, we left the service thinking about the origins of the Advent Lessons and Carols, and its more famous cousin, with which it is oft confused, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. The latter predated the former. It was first celebrated in Truro by 1880 and then popularized in 1918 by Dean Eric Milner-White, whereas the now common-place service of Advent Lessons and Carols only got its start in 1934.*

The bidding prayer for Advent Lessons and Carols has a particular resonance when it addresses the concerns of the poor in the same breath as it remembers the Theotokos:

And because he particularly loves them, let us remember in his name the poor and helpless; the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; as well as those who do not know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, let us remember before God his pure and lowly Mother, and that whole multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and whom, in Jesus, we are one for evermore. And now, to sum Creche without Jesus (yet)up all these petitions, let us pray in the words which Christ himself has taught us:

Perhaps the 'cold' is not seasonally apropos for Anglicans in the southern hemisphere, but the rest assuredly speaks to all of us. It would have had a different resonance in 1934 as the Great Depression lurched along in the Western world and Europe rested ill-at-ease with the rise of fascism, but that bidding prayer seems just as relevant today.

For all that they are to us hallowed traditions, Lessons and Carols are relatively new, but hint at something that we hope Anglicans remember at this time of year and always. Anamnesis, the Greek word for reminiscence that is often far overplayed for its etymology combining 'remembrance' and 'again', is apt. Advent as a time of hopeful expectation. Advent as a time of remembering holidays long since past, waiting in a time between life and death, and going back to a manger in Bethlehem—or rather to a people waiting for the manger and child. The Book of Common Prayer, going back to its first synthesis of Christian liturgy and linguistic novelty, has had a particular knack for encouraging us to remember the many Christians—whether Anglican or not—who have prayed the same prayers we do, sung the same hymns (or at least tunes), and had many of the same struggles.

We think it very appropriate and fitting that one of our newer—relatively speaking—liturgies can already do that.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

11 December 2016

*For considerably more detail, do note our letter for 15 Dec. 2013.

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