Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Although, as in ancient times, 25th December, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, was regarded as the beginning of the Christian year, the annual liturgical cycle starts on 1st December, Advent Sunday. Here follows a season of spiritual preparation with the season ending on the 24th December Christmas Eve.
At the time of the Roman Empire, the accession of an emperor since the time of Augustus (68BC – 14 AD) and the ceremonial entry of a ruler to a province or city, were his ‘Advent’. Latin speaking Christians, for whom Jesus Christ was the only true Lord and Emperor, borrowed the word and concept but invested it with a new meaning: the Coming of their ‘Saviour’.
To-day we continue the ancient traditions of the Church. The solemnity of the season, seen as a time when the people ‘walked in darkness’ (Isaiah 9v2), is reflected in the appearance within the church. The predominant colour is purple and there are no flowers in Advent, no Gloria sung and the organ is only played to accompany the singing. The only day that this solemn celebration is broken is on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent when flowers are permitted and the colour changes to rose. On Gaudete Sunday we are reminded of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
There is much symbolism in Advent. On each Sunday a new candle will be lit on the Advent wreath. The wreath itself, which is made of various evergreens, signifies continuous life. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life we find in Christ. Even the individual evergreens that make up the wreath have their own meanings that can be adapted to our faith. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. The pine, holly, and yew signify immortality and the cedar signifies strength and healing. The pine cones that decorate the wreath symbolize life and resurrection. The wreath as a whole is meant to remind us of both the immortality of our souls and God’s promise of everlasting life to us through Christ.
The candles also have their own special significance. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of the candles are purple because the colour violet is a liturgical colour that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice. The first candle, which is purple, symbolizes hope. It is sometimes called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. It represents the expectation felt in anticipation of the coming Messiah. The second candle, also purple, represents faith. It is called the “Bethlehem Candle” as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle is pink and symbolizes joy. It is called the “Sheperd’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical colour for joy. On the fourth week of Advent, we light the final purple candle to mark the final week of prayer and penance as we wait for the birth of our Saviour. This final candle, the “Angel’s Candle,” symbolizes peace. It reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” Finally The white candle is placed in the middle of the wreath and lit on Christmas Eve. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ. The colour white is for purity—because Christ is our sinless, pure Saviour.
On Advent Sunday in the afternoon we are going to hold an Advent Carol service at 4.30 p.m. whose theme, readings and carols will be solely those of Advent. Everyone is invited to join with us where we will host Churches from the Riviera who will also be joining us for the celebration.
There are, of course, two Advents. The first happened when Jesus was born in humble circumstances in Bethlehem. As prophesied by Isaiah, it was said that salvation would come through ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’, (Isaiah 53 v2). The other Advent, ‘the Second Coming’ as we call it, will be when Jesus returns to judge the world. Over the centuries Advent has therefore had a dual significance. It looks forward to when we celebrate with all its richness the holy nativity and it prepares us all for the end-time when all will be summoned to appear before the judgement seat.
We celebrate the season of Advent with many traditions and continue this year with Ristretto performing Handel’s Oratorio ‘Messiah’ on Saturday the 14th December at 7.00 p.m. Handel (1685-1759) composed Messiah in twenty four days for the Charitable Musical Society of Dublin. It’s premiere was on 13th April 1742 and was not immediately intended for Church performances. It has now popularly found it’s place all over the world as an Advent or Christmas repertoire. Only the first part of ‘Messiah’ deals specifically with the prophecy of Christ’s birth and its annunciation to the shepherds. The nativity story is presented mostly through Old Testament prophecies, with some New Testament narrative. Librettist Charles Jennens compiled the text for ‘Messiah’ from biblical verses and organized the work into three parts: the prophecy of the birth of a messiah and the Incarnation, the Passion and the Resurrection, and Christ’s glorification in Heaven.
The iconic “Hallelujah” chorus does not celebrate the birth of Christ as so many believe, but instead occurs at the end of the second part, as a celebration of the Resurrection and Ascension.
Of course our Advent celebrations continue until the 24th December but before then we anticipate the holy season with our traditional ‘Nine Lessons & Carols’ on Sunday the 22ndDecember at 7.00 p.m. followed by refreshments. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Festival traditionally broadcast on Christmas Eve from King’s College Cambridge. The original service, first heard at King’s College Chapel in 1918, was devised by E. W. Benson, the first Bishop of Truro and later Archbishop of Canterbury. According to his son A. C. Benson (who wrote the words to Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’), his father “arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending, through the different grades, with the Bishop.” But it was Eric Milner-White, Dean of King’s College Cambridge, who brought the service to the masses. Deciding that the Festival would be more uplifting than Evensong on Christmas Eve, he set up the Festival as an annual occurrence at King’s College Chapel and achieved instant popularity, spreading his new idea to schools, chapels and churches around the world. This year at the Nine Lessons our choir is augmented by the award winning ‘Sweet Seven’ recognised as one of the leading A Cappella groups on the Côte d’Azur.
As we finally turn our attention to Christmas our Christmas season starts proper on the 24th December with our Children’s Nativity and Christingle service at 4.00 p.m. Midnight Mass commences at 11.00 p.m. and then on Christmas Day itself we come together for our Sung Eucharist at 10.30 p.m.
All of this is a journey of faith through December. Here at St. Paul’s there are many opportunities to come and worship, which of course is the fundamental reason of our being, to worship Him who came to us so that we may enter into His glory and share His presence. I hope that through this holy season of Advent you will all find time to come and join with us as we share this experience together.
With Advent Blessings
From the President of the Association The first Sunday in Advent in Salt Lake City in the 1960’s at the Richardson household meant gathering around the pine wreath with its 5 candles before bedtime, saying a prayer, and fighting with my brother as to who got to light the candle. In the morning we had attended Saint Mark’s Episcopal church where I sang in the choir and my little brother fussed in the pews. At home our advent wreath wasn’t as splendid as the one in church; I had a hard time feeling ours was “real”. Every day we opened the doors on our Advent calendar to a religious depiction; the idea of a Kinder bar behind the doors never crossed our minds.
As a child I quickly understood the celebration part of the Advent season, but certainly not the repentance side, a change of mind that thrusts one into action, onto a path towards God. Repentance was not taught in school: only right and wrong; and two wrongs did not make a right. Now I see that repentance is something that can be practiced every day, that even small acts of oversight or carelessness can be repented, and that we all are worthy of this practice.
That same child did not understand that all that helps us worship God is real, that spendour is a wonderful feast for the eyes, but not necessary to celebrate the coming of Christ. It has taken many decades to understand that my mother’s homemade Advent wreath was just as real as the mighty one in Saint Mark’s church, and that God was just as much in our home as in church.
What’s On & Notices
Advent December 1st | 10:30 & 16:30
Sunday this year falls on December 1st. We shall celebrate with our usual 10.30 sung Eucharist in the morning followed by an Advent Carol service at 16.30 to which everyone is invited. This will be a Deanery Carol service with representatives coming from along the Riviera. There will be refreshments afterwards in the Library.
Kermesse December 7th | All Day
The Annual Kermesse will be held on December 7th. We will be running the coffee/ tea stall and will need plenty of volunteers. Please put the date in your diary and let Frances know if you are available to help.
Handel’s Messiah December 7th | All Day
performed by Ristretto will once again be held at St. Paul’s, this year on Saturday December 14th at 19.00. This wonderful piece of music is the perfect Advent concert and tickets can be purchased at www.ristrettovoices.com.
are always welcomed at St. Paul’s to take part in the services as servers, readers and greeters as well as those who serve refreshments and help after the services. We are always grateful to those who volunteer in these duties. Should you wish to help in any of these areas and can be included in the rota for October and November please contact Frances in the usual way. Thank you.
We are in the process of securing a date for the Bishop to visit next year for a Confirmation service which we hope will be here in St. Paul’s. Confirmation is when those who are Baptised ‘confirm’ their baptismal vows for themselves. It is when the Baptised Christian becomes an adult and takes on the responsibilities of a committed Christian for himself or herself. If you are not confirmed and would like to receive this sacrament or are interested in knowing more about what being confirmed is all about, please contact Fr. Lawrence
Daily Services Every Thursday & Friday | 12:45
As worship is the most important part of our Christian lives we are looking to expand the number of services that we have at St. Paul’s. Starting in October we shall be having two extra said Eucharists. These will be held every Thursday and Friday at 12.45 and last about half an hour. This seems to be a popular time for people to come in their lunch break and join in this quiet meditative service. Come and join us for this prayerful lunchtime worship.
Servers at the Altar
I am pleased to report that we are expanding our serving team. Serving at the altar is not restricted to young people alone. If you would like to serve at either the Sunday service or during the week please make yourself known to Fr. Lawrence.
You may be aware that we have suspended our webpage. This is because we are having a completely new redesign which will carry more information and become more user friendly. In the meantime the budget for 2020 is being finalised and a programme of Planned Giving is about to be launched. This will be designed to cover the costs of running St Pauls but also to provide funds for the Church to support the less fortunate both in Monaco and the World.
Do you have a burning desire to sing? St. Augustine says that those who sing are praying twice as much as those who don’t. Whatever your talent or ability, whether you have some or none or would just like to join a group who lead the worship please make yourself known to one of the wardens or Fr. Lawrence for more information on how to join.