Archive for November, 2016

There is a River

After Compline, First Sunday of Advent 2016

After Compline, First Sunday of Advent 2016

I’m writing this on what we Christians in the Western tradition celebrate as the last day of the Christian year. It is the day before the first of four Sundays of Advent, the time of waiting and expectation before Christmas.

It’s probable that for many Western Christians, even those who belong to a “liturgical” church, the turning of the new year has little significance, especially when it has to compete with other demands – such as the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush, and planning (and dreading?) the added tasks of Christmas preparation.

Add to this the aftermath of a very bitter and divisive election in the U.S., and it’s entirely possible to be sidetracked from thinking about Advent at all. If this is the case for you, I highly recommend reading a very insightful and inspiring post by Jim Friedrich, in his blog¬†The Religious Imagineer. In it he suggests seven spiritual practices that can help us in such times of trial – practices in the form of verbs, like pray, love, serve, and hope. Save the link for your reflection over the next month.

Meanwhile, Compline goes on from week to week in Seattle, a “very present help in time of trouble.” Throughout the remainder of the season since Pentecost the choir has sung many pieces of stirring music to insightful texts. We celebrated our 60th anniversary last August with a weekend of activities for both active choir members and alumni. The Compline Service on August 14 was sung by a choir of about forty, including a performance of the Biebl Ave Maria (listen to the podcast here). All of our services are available for listening any time at

At Compline on the last Sunday of the church year, we sang Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength,” in a setting by our choir’s founder and director, Peter Hallock (1924-2014). I recalled the phrase “there is a river,” from the psalm when reading the first reading from the Catholic Mass for today, the last day of the year. It is from Apocolypse (or the Book of Revelation) Chapter 22:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

May this psalm bring you peace, healing, and strength, as you go forward in faith, hope, and love:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be overthrown;
God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken;
God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come now and look upon the works of the LORD,
what awesome things he has done on earth.

It is he who makes war to cease in all the world;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.