May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
The words of the first great “O” Antiphons of Advent read:
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
This antiphon is the first of seven ‘O’ antiphons (or ‘verses’) which were traditionally recited during vespers in the final days of Advent season. They were first referenced in the 6th Century but are likely to date back to the time of the early church. The antiphons refer to the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah. Each one begins with the interjection ‘O’ and refers to one of the names of Christ: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the nations, O Emmanuel. O Wisdom will be sung by the choir at the beginning of our Carols by Candlelight service on Sunday 17th December.
The ‘O’ antiphons are just one of the many ways that Christians have marked the season of Advent down the ages. At St Giles’, the choir will sing Advent carols which are traditionally more sombre than Christmas carols but just as beautiful. We will be lighting a candle each week on our Advent wreath and the colour purple will be prominent, just as in the season of Lent.
These days, the word ‘Advent’ is probably associated more with sweetie-filled calendars rather than the church season of preparation which culminates in the birth of Jesus at Christmas. That’s not to say that sweeties are bad!
But if you want a little more substance and would like to learn more about this fascinating season of hope and expectation, do come and visit us. It may make your celebration of Christmas all the more sweet.
In addition to our regular services, Words and Music for Advent will take place on Sunday 3rd December at 6.30pm. Carols by Candlelight will take place on Sunday 17th December at 6.30pm.
There’s an old junior school assembly hymn called ‘Thank you Lord for this new day’. It’s a tuneful little ditty which rises higher and higher after each verse. And as you may expect, it says, ‘thank you’ – for the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat and of course, for each new day.
It’s always good to give thanks for things. Whether it’s to the people that we meet each day as we work or shop, our friends and family for a delicious meal or a fabulous birthday present – or to God, who we thank through our prayers and hymns.
Autumn always seems to be a particularly good time to say thank you. Possibly because of all the fruit and vegetables coming into season or the leaves on the trees changing colour, perhaps reminding us that we’ve been enjoying their greenery without realising it.
Maybe that’s what the Rev’d Robert Hawker was thinking about on the 13th of September 1843. He was the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, and he revived a medieval custom by posting a notice announcing a special Sunday of thanksgiving. He wrote: ‘Let us gather together in the chancel of our church, and there receive, in the bread of the new corn, that blessed sacrament which was ordained to strengthen and refresh our souls.’
So were sown the seeds of the modern Harvest Festival tradition. Harvest Thanksgiving was formally adopted by the Church of England in 1862 and remains strong today in both rural and urban communities, even in a society increasingly distanced from the work of the land.
Harvest Thanks-giving. As we celebrate harvest time at St Giles’, we’ll of course be saying thank you for all the good gifts around us. But what better way to properly give thanks than by giving gifts to others – through giving up our time, donating our skills or by offering food and clothes to those less fortunate than ourselves.
We wish you a very happy autumn and harvest-tide.
St Giles’ Harvest Festival took place on Sunday 1st October – thank you so much for all the gifts you donated.