49 Years of Turning Ribbons


In churches and chapels around the world today, priests and sacristans will move the ribbons in the Sacramentary to the prayers for the First Sunday of Advent and in the Lectinary to the Advent scriptures. The ribbons for the Advent Sunday prayers and readings brings us back to the front of the two books such that the left hand page of each doesn't easily lie flat but buckles up a bit against the right hand side which holds a year's worth of pages yet to be turned, prayed and proclaimed. 

It's a simple gesture, moving these ribbons, but one which reminds us that the Church is beginning a new year, another year of celebrating our life in Christ and the saving events and grace that bind us together as his Body, the Church. As the seasons of nature repeat and bring us back to spring each year, so do the seasons of worship cycle back to these Advent days and then forward to Easter.

This first Sunday of a new liturgical year reminds me of how many times I've lived through this cycle as a priest. I can look back now on 49 Advent wreaths; 49 Christmases; 49 Lents, Holy Weeks, Triduums and Pentecosts: and close to 5 decades of Sundays in Ordinary Time! These 49 years have found me ministering in St. Ann Parish in Wollaston; at Moreau Seminary and Morrissey Hall at the University of Notre Dame; at St. Ann Parish in Boston for Northeastern University and Emerson College; at St. Joseph Parish in Medway, for 25 years at Our Lady Help of Christians and Holy Family Parishes in Concord; then 2 years at Saint Luke Parish in Belmont and now at Good Shepherd Parish in Wayland.  

When I began turning ribbons, I often wasn't altogether sure where they were supposed to go - and then there were years when I wondered if I should stay in the ribbon-turning business or leave it.  Early on, I changed the ribbons in times  when I found the Sacramentary to be limiting and confining but in years the Church's missal became an old and trusted friend. I've actually worn out a Sacramentary or two and even before trading in for a new copy, the ribbons can and sometimes do need to be replaced. I've turned ribbons back to Advent in good times and in bad, in years of the Church's grace - and years of disgrace. Those ribbons and the books they mark have been with me for nearly 5 decades: I thank God for the grace of all those years born of the prayers, rites and scriptures the liturgical books provide for us. 

And now another new Year of Grace is beginning and once again I'll be blessing an Advent wreath and lighting its first candle - and opening the book to a page marked by a ribbon and praying these beautiful words for the 49th time:

Father in heaven, 
our hearts desire the warmth of your love 
and our minds are searching 
for the light of your Word. 
Increase our longing for Christ our Savior 
and give us the strength to grow in love, 
that the dawn of his coming 
may find us rejoicing in his presence 
and welcoming the light of his truth.  
A happy and blessed Advent to you all! 

1 comment:

  1. So very grateful you decided to stay in the ribbon-turning business.


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