First Sunday of Advent 2016

November 27th, 2016

First Sunday in Advent

Deacon Blaine Barclay


From St. Paul today, “Brothers and sisters, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” Advent is about the future, God is coming to us.  Because Advent is also preparation for Christmas we sometimes treat it as if it was mostly about the past.  About something that took place ‘a long time ago in Bethlehem’.  But when you think about it, even the Incarnation, although it took place definitively, once for all in Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning, is still coming to us from the future. Is the Church not the Body of Christ, extended through space and time. Listen to the theme of time in today’s readings. Our first reading says ‘in days to come’, our second reading says, ‘you know what time it is’, our gospel talks about ‘an unexpected hour’. Advent is all about time, not the ordinary time in which we live most of our lives, both humanly and liturgically, but a kind of ‘eschatalogical’ time, the time of the end, or should I say, the time of the absolutely new beginning.  Along with this, there is the recurring theme of wakefulness.  The text moves back and forth, again and again, between being asleep and being awake, between being in the dark, and living in the light of day. ‘It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.’ ‘Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming… If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake….Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ We are called to the wakefulness of those who have put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

But if we are called to be awake, it must be that on some level we are asleep, that there is something about the world and our lives that can only be characterize as being asleep.  Notice how the scriptures describe and characterize the world of everyday life. ‘The night is far gone’. Or as Dylan says, ‘its not dark yet, but its getting there’. The gospel calls to mind the way people were living in the days prior to the flood, and implies that this is the way people for the most part continue to live out their lives. It says that ‘they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’. Not that there is anything wrong with any of these things. So what was the problem? The problem was that ‘they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away.’ In other words, they were not awake, they were asleep. Isn’t this true about us as well? In the flow of everyday life we are for the most part given over to the many concerns, distractions, demands, that sweep us along in their wake.  We live in a culture of distraction, of entertainment, where even leisure has become an industry designed to sell us goods and services, to keep us occupied. One author calls this, ‘the anesthetic society’, a cultural system designed in its average everydayness to put us and to keep us asleep. To a certain extent this has always been the case. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato talked about the ‘torrent of public opinion which seduces and detours even the best of us into trivialities. The gospel agrees, ‘they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them away’. They knew nothing because another flood had already swept them away, the flood of inauthentic cultural forms.

Gospel wakefulness is more than a change in consciousness, more than a different way of looking at and experiencing the world. The ‘turning around of the soul’ that the gospel calls us to is a moral conversion. We are called, as St. Paul tells us, ‘to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.’ What are these sleep inducing works of darkness? He lists a few, ‘reveling’, ‘drunkeness’, debauchery, licentiousness, quarrelling, and jealousy, in short, ‘gratifying the desires of the flesh’. In contrast to this worldly way of life, we are to clothe ourselves with ’the armour of light’, to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’? But how are we to do this? By ‘laying aside the works of darkness’ and practicing their contrary virtues. By keeping vigil over our own cultural choices, what we read, what we watch, the way we practice ‘leisure’. Even the way we use technology is called to conversion. The prophet Isaiah says, ”They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” We are called to be peacemakers, not just globally, but in our families, friendships, our workplaces. Advent calls us to wakefulness, to know what time it is, to ’reading the signs of the times’ and responding with the good news of the gospel. Advent is God’s time, God is coming to us, are we ready. “Brothers and sisters, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.”

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.