First Sunday in Advent

Deacon Blaine Barclay

December 2nd, 2018

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The beginning of a new liturgical year. The readings for today are like a warning shot over our bow to set the tone for the coming year. To get us on the right foot for Advent and this year of Luke.

It is an interesting exercise to step back for a moment from this particular Sunday, And to look over the readings and ‘collect’ prayers(the opening gathering prayer just before the readings) for the four Sundays of Advent as a whole. Only then do we really noticed the darker side of Advent, so to speak, the deep foreboding, the call to repentance as a response to God‘s initiative of breaking in upon our broken humanity.

advent are somewhat dark and foreboding in their tone. Filled with longing fora hope that is more like a promise, a faint glimmer of light on the horizon.Like the early dawning of a new day, a day we are called to make ready for with repentance, good deeds, and justice, in this wilderness that is our home. Only on the third and fourth Sunday’s of Advent does the sun come up over the horizon, and even then with shadow.

 Today’s collect, for example, prays for ‘the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming‘. To act like those, ‘gathered at his right hand‘, which is the hand of mercy and good deeds.Advent calls us to be awake to the tragic darkness of our world and of our hearts, or, should I say, what we have made of our world and of our lives. To long for the one who God is sending to rescue us from ourselves. The one our first reading calls, a ‘Righteous Branch ‘, who, ‘shall execute justice and righteousness in the land’. This Branch, this Son of David, Anointed, Messiah King, Jesus the Christ.

 Even this hope, however, is awake to the tragic. The Promised One will also struggle with his war against the night, will know risk,temptation, loneliness, rejection, loss, grief, torture, execution. Nativity,the coming of God into the vulnerability, the very bottom of our human condition, is a battle cry for all of us to join him in this fight. This non-violent revolution of tenderness, taking back the night, in the time between the first Nativity and the second Nativity. The birth of the Messiah and the victory of the messianic people, called to a messianic lifestyle.

 Saint Paul captures this ‘building the kingdom of God’ lifestyle quite well when he says, ‘brothers and sisters: may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all’. Paul goes on to remind the Thessalonian Christians about all they have learned about, ‘how you are to live and to please God‘, and how, ‘you should do so more and more’.

 We all know that life is a struggle, that it is not allchoirs of angels, smiling donkeys, and strangers with gifts. In the time between, we will know struggle, darkness, ‘fear and trembling and sickness unto death’. Jesus warns us in the Gospel today. He speaks to his disciples of those who are, ‘confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves’ . The experience of chaos, within and without. That, ‘people will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of heavens will be shaken’. This is very dark foreboding language coming out of the mouth of Jesus. But rather than speculate about what Jesus elsewhere says, ‘no one knows the hour or the day‘. What advice does Jesus give us about how to live in the face of our experience of darkness, dread, the last things, judgment? First, he warns us not to Anesthetize ourselves (numb or put ourselves to sleep), self-medicating in order to avoid the struggle. He says, ‘be on guard so that your hearts are ot weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life’. The universality of suffering is a trap, he warns us, if we choose to deal with it with a scattered, distracted life.

On the contrary, Jesus calls us to, ‘be on guard’, to ‘be alert’, to ‘stand up’, to ‘raise your heads’, ‘praying’ for the strength to meet the day of the Lord. Advent is meant to shake us into wakefulness to a hope on the other side of all that habitually stands, that can fill us with a false confidence. Like James Bond’s favourite drink, Christians are meant to be‘shaken not stirred’. Standing strong in the Lord, ready for both Advents. God is coming to us, are we ready?

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.