November 28 marked the first Sunday of Advent for this calendar year, simultaneously marking the first day of the new church year on the liturgical calendar. Advent stems from the Latin word Adventus, meaning ‘coming.’ In the Christian tradition it is a reminder of the time period that the Hebrews spent waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ.
The celebration of Advent at Holy Wisdom Monastery with the Sunday Assembly community stems from the sisters’ visions and values as an ecumenical Benedictine community. In 2001, the Benedictine Women of Madison established the Monastic Ritual Team, which oversees all prayer and worship activities at Holy Wisdom Monastery. This team is advisory to the prioress, Mary David Walgenbach, OSB, and meets monthly to provide insights and make decisions about the direction of prayer and worship. Lynn Lemberger, the director of worship and music, implements the vision of the monastic community in all prayer and worship activities at Holy Wisdom Monastery.
The Sunday Assembly community has been celebrating the season of Advent for the past few weeks, similar to Christian churches around the world. At Holy Wisdom Monastery, we follow the Revised Common Lectionary schedule of readings, like many other churches in the mainline Protestant and Anglican traditions. An Advent wreath with candles to mark the four Sundays of Advent stands in the Assembly Room. Each Sunday during Advent, a new candle is lit to signify the passage of time and waiting.
The celebration of Advent at Sunday Assembly Eucharist is highly participatory. There is only the 9:00 am service to choose from on Sundays, which helps to bring together the diverse community of worshippers at one time. This is countercultural to the churches that are thriving that offer a contemporary service, a children’s service, a Spanish service, a Latin service, and a rock band option. Everyone in the assembly participates in singing, in responses, and in the Eucharist. This is in line with the sisters’ vision for ecclesiology of the church.
The celebration of Advent itself can be countercultural. Advent is also the time of the year when consumerism in the United States is at the highest. As Joan Chittister, OSB, wrote in US Catholic in 2008, Advent is a time to reclaim life. She writes: “But judging from the scripture of the season, Christmas is surely meant to be an attitude toward life, not a carnival. It is meant to be arrived at slowly and lived succulently. Christmas is not meant to be simply a day of celebration; it is meant to be a month of contemplation. But because Advent has been lost somewhere between the Thanksgiving turkey and the pre-Christmas sales, we have lost one of the richest seasons of the year. Unless we can reclaim Advent, the lack of it will show dearly in the way we go through the rest of life itself.”
All are welcome to join us for the celebration of Advent at our ecumenical Eucharist on Sundays at 9:00 am. We are located at 4200 County Road M in Middleton (click here for a map). We will celebrate Christmas Eve at 8:30 pm on December 24.