A tale of two Advents

The Advent Ring hanging from the ceiling of St. Clement's Church © Ricky Yates

The Advent Ring hanging from the ceiling of St. Clement’s Church © Ricky Yates

Last Sunday, 30th November, was Advent Sunday which marks both the beginning of the Church Liturgical Year and of the season of Advent. Contrary to what the manufacturers of Advent calendars all believe, Advent only occasionally begins on 1st December. Instead it begins four Sundays before Christmas Day.

The word ‘advent’ means ‘coming’, from the Latin ‘adventus‘. And particularly at the beginning of the Advent season, we are encouraged to think seriously about the promised second coming of Christ – his second Advent, as in turn we prepare ourselves to once more celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

The tradition of having an Advent ring/wreath/crown, with four candles, an additional one to be lit on successive Sundays during Advent, is very popular here in the Czech Republic. Whilst our host Ceskobratrská církve evangelické / Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren congregation, are not great keepers of the Liturgical Year – for example, they do not mark Ash Wednesday – they do mark and keep the Advent season. As part of doing so, each year they provide this amazing Advent ring which hangs from the Church ceiling, just behind the altar. I took this photograph at the end of our Advent Sunday worship last Sunday morning, just before snuffing out the first lit candle, as part of our duty of leaving the Church building safe and secure!

I thoroughly enjoyed our Advent Sunday worship with the regular congregation being joined by numerous visitors from around the world. Our service began with the singing of, ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, and ended with a rousing rendition of Charles Wesley’s ‘Lo, he comes with clouds descending’. But as well as celebrating Christ’s promised ‘second Advent’, I was very conscious that just a couple of days later, I would experience a personal ‘second advent’ – that of my wife, Sybille, returning to Prague from her nearly six-month walking pilgrimage, from Prague to Santiago de Compostela.

Having left from the front door of the Chaplaincy Flat on Monday 9th June, Sybille successfully walked into Santiago on the morning of Sunday 23rd November. After her arrival, she spent a few days enjoying the city and also visited a friend in Lugo. With no direct flights available to Prague, she instead flew to Barcelona and spent the Advent Sunday weekend staying with another friend there, before being booked to fly to Prague on Tuesday 2nd December.

Over the few days before Sybille was due to return to Prague, it was cold but dry. However, soon after dark on the evening of Monday 1st December, it started to rain. But because the air and the ground were so cold, the rain almost immediately froze, forming ice everywhere. Prague, together with much of the rest of the Czech Republic, experienced what has been described as an ‘ice storm’. Ice forming in large amounts on the overhead wires, caused the whole of the Prague tram network to close down along with much of the Czech railway system.

The 'Carly' on Tuesday 2nd December © Ricky Yates

The ‘Carly’ on Tuesday 2nd December © Ricky Yates

Eventually, the rain did turn to snow and this was how my car looked the following morning, in advance of driving out to the airport to meet Sybille. But underneath what appears to be just a light dusting of snow, was a thick layer of ice covering the windscreen and all the other car windows. It took a major scraping exercise to get the car into a condition to be driven safely with good visibility all round!

Therefore, having been sitting alongside the sea, sipping a glass of wine the previous afternoon, it came as quite a shock for Sybille as she flew from a temperature of +16C in Barcelona, to one of -2C in Prague. She did humorously request that I put her straight on a plane back to Spain, when she saw the snow and felt the icy cold.

Fortunately, the weather and temperature has improved from the atrocious conditions of Monday night and Tuesday. I’ve taken the inside of this week as annual leave and we’ve begun to adjust to once more being together in the same flat, for the first time in nearly six months.

9 comments to A tale of two Advents

  • Em

    How wonderful that Sybille is back, safe and sound! You really did set out on rotten roads; I know many of my colleagues and I were a bit inconvenienced by the tram lines freezing up, but I digress. Did she notice the very thorough cleaning job you did? 🙂

    Also, that Advent wreath really is lovely, and “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” is just the perfect song to sing under it. Happy Christmastide to you, Ricky!

    • Ricky

      It is lovely to have Sybille safely back home, Em. But you’re right, the weather could have been kinder on the day she arrived! However, she already knew about my thorough cleaning of the flat as she had read my blog in advance of her return 🙂

      The Advent wreath is wonderful & as I wrote, the real bonus is that we get it for free! Wishing you & BW a Happy Christmas!

  • That really had to be quite a shock for Sybille! You’re lucky you did not have to rely on the public transport. 🙂 I hope her landing was safe!

    And that’s a beautiful wreath you get for free there. My church has a large iron candle-holder for Advent (and, incidentally, I think we did have a small observation of Ash Wednesday – in CCE, things like this very much vary between congregations, like the frequency of Communion). I’m not familiar with those songs, so I’ll have to look them up.

    Addition: I know the melody of O come, O come, Emmanuel, but can’t place it at the moment. I think it’s somewhere in the yellow additional songbook of my church…

    • Ricky

      Hi Hana – I’ve put your ‘addition’ onto the end of your original comment so I can reply to your two comments together.

      The weather was a bit of a shock for Sybille! However, although the trams were not running, Prague Public Transport did lay on extra buses so it would have been possible to make it to the airport by public transport.

      I was aware that there are variations in observances between individual CCE Churches. I understand that even after nearly one hundred years of being a united Church, it does in part still depend as to whether the congregation was originally Lutheran or Presbyterian. Our host congregation at Kostel sv Kliment was originally Presbyterian.

      ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ is a translation into English of the original Latin ‘Veni, Veni, Emmanuel‘. I know that there is also a German translation & there may well be a Czech one too. The tune we sing it to is French, from the 15th century & is known now as ‘Veni, Emmanuel’.

      • In part, it definitely depends on that. There are fewer previously Lutheran churches. In some cases, like in the case of our congregation, it also has to do e.g. with a strong figure of a minister from the past and the preferences the members of the congregation have got used to. My family’s always struggled with that somewhat in this congregation, because on both sides of the family, there is more of a Presbyterian/Calvinist tradition…
        CCE is a weird mixture like that. I’ve personally always liked that level of freedom. But it’s both a good and a bad thing; it can lead to free discussion, but also to a degree of… ignorance.

  • Gosh, that temperature change must have been a shock to the system for poor Sybille! I’m so glad she’s safely home after her remarkable achievement. As you know I’m a great lover of Advent and your Advent ring is marvellous.

    Ps. It’s hard to imagine Prague without its trams, even if only for a day.

    • Ricky

      Indeed Perpetua – Sybille certainly could have chosen a somewhat better day weatherwise for her return home!

      As I’ve previously written, the great joy of the Advent ring is that it just appears – we have to do nothing. But it is part of mutual sharing. We have a lectern & upright microphone stand that are ours. But because they just live in the vestry, I’ve noticed a number of occasions when either our host congregation, or others to whom they have let the Church, happily using our property without reference to us 🙂

      I completely concur with your PS. Apparently, it is only the second time this has happened, the previous occasion being in 1901.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Winter certainly came in with a blast in Prague this year didn’t it? Glad to hear you were able to collect Sybille safely from the Airport despite the icy conditions. As a person who ‘drives for a living’ nowadays I really fear sudden icy blasts such as you recently experienced, perhaps it is different in Czechia (snow and ice being usual winter fare there) but in Ireland many drivers don’t know how to handle these conditions and this often results in numerous accidents leading to injury and death that could be avoided with a little common sense and courtesy. Your poor ‘Carly’ looks so miserable in its snow coat I actually feel sorry for it. Wishing Sybille and Yourself the compliments of the season.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean – Yes, winter certainly came with a blast on the night of Monday 1st – Tuesday 2nd December. Fortunately, the temperature slowly rose the next day and though we’ve had more frost since then, we so far haven’t had any further snow here in Prague.

      Czechs are more geared for winter driving conditions than most people in the UK & Ireland. There is a requirement to have winter tyres fitted if you are going to drive in freezing or snowy conditions. Fortunately, I did the swap from summer to winter tyres, early in November.

      Unfortunately, because my predecessor as Anglican Chaplain, didn’t have a car, the Church didn’t purchase an underground parking place when they bought the flat in January 2006. So the poor ‘Carly’ does have to sit outside in all weathers. Thank you for your Christmas greetings which are reciprocated.