New year, new season, thoughts on mercy

advent-candlesAdvent and Christmas have come and gone once again. Yesterday was January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, and I took the ornaments off the tree which we keep up all through the twelve days of Christmas. Then it was off to a birthday dinner for my youngest daughter, who was born on this feast day 28 years ago. It was especially festive this year, because she is going to give birth in the spring to a son – my first grandchild.

Today the artificial tree will come down and be packed away for next year. But perhaps because of my daughter’s journey to become a mother, I can’t let go of a season that is so full of expectation and hope. So while I pack up the symbols of the season gone by, I am still engaged with the things I have seen and heard over the last month – several of which I want to share with you.

Around the second week of December, I attended our annual Saturday day retreat at St. Placid Priory, where I am an Oblate. This year the theme was Advent Mercy, to coincide with the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. One of the highlights of the retreat for me was watching a five-minute video made by Marilyn Freeman, another Oblate, who is a media artist and writer. Her “cinema divina” presents an opportunity for contemplation in the same way that “lectio divina” uses a spiritual text, which calls for deep listening, awakening to specific words or phrases that resonate, and mulling over and expanding the themes presented. Click on the following link to Marilyn’s site to start the video:


One of the highlights of Compline during Advent was  singing of Peter Hallock’s setting of the hymn Rorate caeli desuper, which he wrote for the Compline Choir in 2008. The words speak of the desolation of the times and the hope that comfort is on the way. It’s a longing that, no matter what the time, never loses its relevance.

Rorate caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.
Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

Ne irascaris Domine, ne ultra memineris iniquitatis:
Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity:

ecce civitas Sancti facta est deserta: Sion deserta facta est: Jerusalem desolata est:
behold the city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate.

Consolamini, consolamini, popule meus:
Be comforted, be comforted, my people;

Quia innovavit te dolor?
Why hath sorrow seized thee?

Noli timere, salvabo te; ego enim sum Dominus Deus tuus.
Fear not, I will save thee; for I am the Lord thy God.

Be comforted


In 2016 both Christmas and New Year’s Day were on Sundays, and Compline at Christmas was made very special by having the whole service done in candlelight. You can listen to the service, which had several anthems, at this link.

All the best in 2017 from the Compline Underground!

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