This afternoon we opened our Advent door to White Cranberry tea, which was really an infusion. The white turned out to be chocolate, though we only know this from an examination of the ingredients. Pour out too early and it makes for lovely, pinkish cranberry-flavoured tea. Pour out later and its darker pink, tastes more strongly of cranberry, and the chocolate still isn’t in evidence. We don’t mind, not being people who much fancy chocolate in tea. We also happen to have a taste for tart things, so the cranberry flavour agreed with us. For anyone with more of a sweet tooth, we decline to pass judgement.
Instead we lost our half-hour teatime to mulling over Advent, and why exactly we’ve spent the last week or so protesting the renaming of the Advent Calendar. We don’t do it, you understand, out of contrariness. Well, not sheer contrariness anyway. Partly we really are baffled by the idea that Advent is somehow exclusive to church-goers. Doesn’t everyone observing the season, even the ones observing in secular fashion, by counting down the days ’til Christmas?
And yet, for all that, Christmas is only part of the point to us. At the end of the day there’s a flatness to Christmas that we don’t find with other holidays. Easter is triumphant and Lent is majestic and sombre. But Advent, that four-weeks journey of counting down until Christmas, is complex. It’s Little Lent to some people, all grey and solemn. There’s a theological school of thought that says it’s apocalyptic. But it’s also the liturgical New Year. Above all those things though, it’s expectant and hopeful, and giddy with blossoming gladness. It comes into fullness at Christmas, we suppose, but to us the exciting part is really the anticipation. It’s watching for the Christ-Light, or any light, on a grey sunrise, or a three o’clock sunset, or on a monochrome winter day.
Advent to us is full of shifting light as we move ever nearer to Christmas Eve. It’s why, although the candles aren’t the most Anglican of traditions (terribly Lutheran, according to a chap at last week’s Agape) we continue to love them and all they stand for. Who doesn’t need light in the darkness? To know that however grim or bleak the hour, there may yet be something coming to buy the spirit? That’s the gist of Advent to us, the nutshell version. And why it matters so much that we’re doing something more here than the 24 Days of Tea. It’s not just about the tea and the boxes, but about what is coming, and more than that, how we get there.
After all that, here’s a well-loved bit of Yeats. Normal people remember it for it’s closing lines. We remember it for the glorious descriptions of shifting light – perfect for Advent whether you see it in rushing to a half nine choir rehearsal by Scottish sunrise, or from some comfortable Canadian fireside, or indeed, somewhere else entirely.
Aden Reaches for the Cloths of Heaven
William Butler Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Other revelations that came today included the rather eclectic one that Wake, O Wake is excluded from the Anglican Hymnal of Canada. This dawned on us when listening for the second time in as many weeks to Wachet Auf on the organ, we went in search of the words. We’re not sure why they weren’t there, and we’re convinced we will never parse the logic of this particular hymnody compiler. In compensation, we’re sending you on your way today with the hymn for an ear worm. It’s early in Advent for it, we know, but it’s also lovely, and we’re starting to think there are a shocking number of Canadians who have been cheated of the fun of singing it. This must be rectified.