As I’m sure we’re all well aware, the season of Advent is quickly approaching. Last weekend, we experienced the feast day of one of my personal favorite saints, Saint Martin of Tours, whose feast in many ways represents the culmination of the octave of All Saints and All Souls day. From the late 4th Century to the Middle Ages, a period of fasting beginning on the day after St. Martin’s Day, November 11. This fast period lasted 40 days, and was, therefore, called “Quadragesima Sancti Martini”, which means in Latin “the forty days of St. Martin.” As times and history would have it, this period of fasting would later develop into the four Sundays of Advent familiar to many in the Western Churches.
Personally, around Saint Martin’s feast day, I start mentally preparing myself for the Christmas season and coming up with personal meditations and reflections as we begin to approach the darkest half of the year which, paradoxically, is also the time of year where the light of the Sun is symbolically reborn and begins to grow and wax once again. For anyone whose read Frazer or Joseph Campbell or has familiarity with contemporary neo-Paganism, the symbolism of the Christ Child being born around Winter Solstice and bringing light into the world is not a terribly novel idea, but it’s that mythic cycle that we can use to help ourselves to illuminate the depths of our own spiritual experiences in a cyclical way.
Last year I experienced a particularly deep and profound spiritual Advent season by intentionally participating in a local parish’s celebration of the season and also deepening my friendship with many at Hagia Sophia community as well as my own relationship with members of my community in the Apostolic Johannite Church. During this period, I thought about and sketched out some notes for a more family or individual based Advent celebration for members of the greater Gnostic community to follow at home since many lack regular access to churches and temples. Inspired by the idea of the Four Luminaries of the Secret Book of John as guardians of the macrocosmic Christ Consciousness, I put together this ritual that can be performed individually or as a small group for people wanting to participate meaningfully in the Advent Season.
Maybe my presentation here is a little premature, but it is my hope that those who wish to participate with me in this might also be inspired by the meditations I will be writing about this season using the readings suggested.
Emmanuel, icon written by Betsy Porter
egg tempera, shell gold, and gold leaf on shaped panel, 9.5 x 12.5 inches, 2007
photograph by Richard Anderson
Advent Wreath Service
The family or group gathers around the wreath (which is not yet lit).
The One has brought forth the One, then One, and these Three are but One: the + Father, +the Word and +the Thought.
Lord, open my lips.
People: And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.
Leader: O God, make speed to save me.
People: O Lord, make haste to help me.
Leader: Glory be to God, whose grace and mercy be upon us forever.
A member of the community comes to the altar or wherever the Advent wreath is placed and gives the Leader a candle or other source of fire.
I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes.
“For from the light, which is the Christ, and the indestructibility, through the gift of the Spirit the four lights appeared from the divine Self-Begotten. He expected that they might attend him. And the three are Will, Thought, and Life. And the four powers are Understanding, Grace, Perception, and Prudence.
On the appropriate Sunday, the candles are lit and the following names are intoned as the candles are lit.
And grace belongs to the light-aeon Armozel, which is the first angel. And there are three other aeons with this aeon: Grace, Truth, and Form.
And the second light is Oriel, who has been placed over the second aeon. And there are three other aeons with him: conception, perception, and memory.
And the third light is Daveithai, who has been placed over the third aeon. And there are three other aeons with him: understanding, love, and idea.
And the fourth aeon was placed over the fourth light Eleleth. And there are three other aeons with him: Perfection, Peace, and Wisdom.
After each reading, the Leader concludes with the following from the Apocryphon of John.
These are the lights which attend the divine Self-Begotten, and these are the twelve aeons which attend the son of the mighty one, the Self-Begotten, the Christ, through the will and the gift of the invisible Spirit. And the twelve aeons belong to the son of the Self-Begotten. And all things were established by the will of the Holy Spirit through the Self-Begotten Christ.”
Phos Hilaron (said together)
O gracious Light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven, O Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.
After the reading
Reader: The Word of the Lord
All: Thanks be to God
Leader: The peace of the Lord be with you
All: And also with you
All may exchange the peace
Leader: The Lord be with you
All: And also with you
Leader: Let us pray
The Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Witness
O Lord our God, let us never be removed from the Gnosis which is our innermost nature. Fill us with strength and with the grace which you have bestowed upon us to that we may carry the light to those in ignorance, to our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. Therefore I believe and I bear witness. I go to Life and to light.
Leader: The Lord bless us and keep us.
Leader The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us.
Leader The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. ALL Amen.
Leader: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
Put out the candle or candles
Here are suggested readings for the weeks of Advent. Alternately, one could use the vesper readings from June Singer’s A Gnostic Book of Hours.
Sunday Matthew 25:1-13
Monday Isaiah 1:16-18
Tuesday Isaiah 60:1-3
Wednesday Psalm 43: 3-5
Thursday Isaiah 58:6-9
Friday 1 John 2:8-11
Saturday 1 John 3:1-2
Sunday Isaiah 40:1-5
Monday Revelation 1:7-8
Tuesday Matthew 22:41-45
Wednesday Hosea 11:3-4
Thursday Psalm 130
Friday Micah 6:6-8
Saturday Jeremiah 14:8-9
Sunday Isaiah 9:6-7
Monday Isaiah 7:10-14
Tuesday Isaiah 11:1-6
Wednesday Isaiah 40:10-11
Thursday Isaiah 52:7
Friday Jeremiah 33:14-16
Saturday Malachi 3:1-2
Sunday John 3:16-21
Monday Luke 1:1-25
Tuesday Luke 1:26-38
Wednesday Luke 1:39-56
Thursday Luke 1:57-66
Friday Luke 1:67-80
Dec. 24 Matthew 1:18-25