Sunday, December 01, 2013

Advent and convergence

Just in case you forgot to turn your liturgical calendar ahead, here's a reminder that it's the first Sunday in Advent, first day of a new year in the traditional Christian church.

Which also is an opportunity to dust off a version of one of the most ancient of our familiar hymns, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," which also happens to be a personal favorite.

The (Episcopal) Hymnal 1982 identifies the source of the words as 9th century Latin; the melody, as 15th century plainsong. As with everything else in Christendom, however, there's debate about those attributions. Many feel both are older.

All acknowledge, however, that the hymn encapsulates the ancient "O Antiphons," traditionally used in the Western church during Vespers, or Evening Prayer, during the last seven days of Advent, Dec. 17-23, so called because each begins with the interjection "O." Each antiphon is based upon a name for Christ: Wisdom (Sapientia), Lord (Adonai), Root of Jesse (Radix Jesse), Key of David (Clavis David), Dayspring (Oriens), King of the nations (Rex Gentium) and God with us (Emmanuel).

Christianity, sometimes hopeful, occasionally helpful but just as likely to be hateful --- depending upon the incarnation --- makes very little sense if looked at logically during any season of the year. But Advent is one of those seasons when I like to think about it all, elbow a little breathing room for those of us who are heretics and/or skeptics --- and just sing. 


This has been a year of unusual convergence --- the first full day of Hanukkah for example fell on Thanksgiving (by some estimates, this won't happen again for 79,000 more years).

And today, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day. An estimated 35 million worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS; an estimated 25 million have died since 1981.

Among the reasons to retire the church to the back shelf of irrelevance it sometimes so richly deserves, the collective performance of most alleged Christians during the opening years of the pandemic ranks high.

Remember the dead, celebrate and support the living and work for a cure. A little redemption is in order.

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