Advent and the Treasury of Daily Prayer
Users of Treasury of Daily Prayer will notice that the daily readings for Advent appear to be "starting too early" but that is merely a matter of calendar dates. It was felt best to provide readings designed for Advent on the earliest possible day when Advent could begin, rather than later. So, since we are not yet in Advent, but are already in the Advent readings in the Treasury, I consulted my friend William Weedon, knower-of-all-things-liturgical for advice on how to handle this situation. His sage advice was simply, "Enjoy a preview of Advent with the readings, but don't use the seasonal propers for Advent until Vespers before this coming Sunday, which is Advent I. So, enjoy the "preview" and a blessed beginning of Adventide to you all.
This just in from Dr. Richard Stuckwisch, one of the proud "parents" of The Treasury of Daily Prayer. Thank you, Dr. Stuckwisch, for these additional thoughts and helpful explanations of the transition from the end of the Church Year into the time of Advent. Indeed, now that we see stores already filled with Christmas decorations, music, and the like, well before Thanksgiving, we need all the help we can get in these matters. Here are Dr. Stuckwisch's thoughts:
We (on the Lectionary Committee) did consider this in developing and finalizing the daily lectionary. Pastor Weedon's good advice is precisely right in that regard.
But as far as the transition to Advent is concerned, we reckoned that most people are, in fact, turning their hearts and minds toward that season with the Thanksgiving holiday. That's not a liturgical rationale or argument, but a practical consideration. It means, simply, that we didn't regard the beginning of "Advent" readings as incongruous or unsettling at that point.
Liturgically speaking, the shift from the final weeks of one Church Year to the beginning of another is not a sharp turning, but a gentle continuation of the circular shape and character of the Church Year. Indeed, what we know as "Advent" originated as a six- or seven-week observance beginning with St. Martin's Day (11 Nov). This entire period, which straddles the "end" and the "beginning," is defined by an eschatological awareness of our Lord's coming (His Advent), then, now, and then-again.
Hence, there is, as it were, an intentional blurring of the transition from the Time of the Church to the Advent of Christ. Notwithstanding the fact that, yes, the Prophet Isaiah and First Peter are taken up with the earliest day on which Advent may properly and precisely begin.