Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Advent Prayer Services

Advent rapidly approaches and with it the awkward question of what to do with those midweek prayer services that became popular in the mid-20th century. Here are a few ideas for the liturgically minded.

* If you don't already have a midweek Mass, that is the place to start. See if you can parlay these Advent services into a regular midweek low Mass. This is of great spiritual benefit to the congregation if for no other reason than to allow vacationers, shift-workers, etc., to catch a Divine Service if they have to miss Sunday. For propers, see DDSB.

* If you already have a midweek Mass or for some other reason want to keep this a prayer service, use it as an opportunity for the congregation to learn Vespers, Evening Prayer, or Compline.

As for liturgical themes, readings, psalmody, etc., here are three ideas to consider that avoid kitsch and idiosyncrasy, which often goes by the name "creativity" these days.

1. Saints. Andrew (Nov 30); Nicholas (Dec 6); Lucia (Dec 13); Thomas (Dec 21). One each for the four weeks of Advent with obvious tie-ins to the season and historic readings (which can be found in DDSB). That's hard to beat.

2. Treasury of Daily Prayer. This is our Lutheran Breviary and is wonderfully done. Take a look at the assigned readings for the weeks in Advent. Let the Writings guide and inspire your preaching. Also take a look at a Roman Breviary for more meditations from the Fathers as well as a little perspective on the history of the TDP's readings. For the actual service, I think picking one day's readings from the week for the service is the best idea, to go along with encouraging the whole congregation to take up this discipline in the home.

3. Previous Sunday's Epistle lesson. Traditionally, the Gospel serves as the text for the Sunday sermon with the Epistle playing only a supporting role. These midweek services are a fine time to preach on the Epistles, or LSB's OT lessons which are nicely focused on prophecies of Christ.



  1. I'm curious why Nicholas over Ambrose? The 7th is his commemoration and we have his hymn to sing for Advent. We're doing Andrew - Ambrose - Thomas (Lessons and Carols that third week, as you know), and so celebrating Three Heralds and Confessors of Christ.

  2. Fr. Weedon,

    Ambrose is certainly a fine choice. But Nicholas just has such an obvious tie in to the "Time of Christmas" as TDP has it.

    You are having a service the fourth week of Advent?? I'm sure you are the one who told me that it is an ancient custom to take that day off :)


  3. There's also the traditional series of feriae readings (quarta feria in this case) from a variety of regional uses, each with its own peculiarities, though there tends to be more common ground in Advent and Lent than during ordinary time. For instance, Bamberg 1507 had:

    Advent 1 Wednesday: James 5:7-10; Matt. 3:1-6
    Advent 2 Wednesday: Mal. 3:1–4:6a; Matt. 11:11–15
    Advent 3 (Ember) Wednesday: Is. 2:2-5; 7:10-15; Luke 1:26-38
    Advent 4 Wednesday: 2 Peter 3:8-14 (Augsburg: 2 Thess. 1:3-10); Matt. 3:7-11

  4. Glyptes,

    Quite right, but like the Breviary or TDP it's kind of odd to pull those out just for one day a week. It really only "works" if the people have a connection with it for the rest of the week. But TDP is a very good option here and is certainly worthy of our encouragement for lay use.


  5. As a layman, I agree that TDP is good for lay use. But do my eyes deceive me? Does Gottesdienst not advocate and support the use of a full weekly service? Let's have that connection for the rest of the week. Let's make it "work."


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