The Advent Procession began the season of Advent with an evocative service at 3.30pm on Sunday 3 December, the First Sunday of Advent. Subtitled From Darkness to Light, the service captured an idea that is central to our keeping of Advent: the recognition that the beautiful world in which we live is marred by our human wilfulness, greed and violence.
The light that shines in the darkness of the Church represents the light of Jesus Christ shining in our dark world. That light dispels the darkness, but not without showing up the dark places of our world, and of our lives. The light of Christ sees us as we are; it judges all, but it is also the illumination and the warmth, the guiding light, which leads us from darkness into light.
The Advent Procession was punctuated by sung phrases, drawn from scripture, known as the Advent Antiphons. With one exception, all refer specifically to Jesus, who is regarded – by Christians at least – as the fulfilment of Jewish expectation and Old Testament prophecy.
We also included a later addition, the antiphon O Virgo Virginum, which clearly refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is given prominence among the Advent Antiphons as the human agent called by God to bring forth God’s own word and being. The readings were chosen to reflect the theological imperatives contained in the antiphons.
The service took the form of a Great Procession which moved throughout the building, with the Cathedral choir pausing to sing at several stations. Music performed included works by Palestrina, Vaughan Williams, Sirett, McKie, Grieg and Lauridsen. Congregational hymns for all to sing included many popular for the season, including O come, O come, Emmanuel and Lo, he comes with clouds descending.