The Second Sunday of Advent

Manuscript Illumination with Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist, Master of James IV of Scotland (probably Gerard Horenbout) ca. 1515

7:30 a.m. Morning Prayer

8:00 a.m. Low Mass (Rite I)

N ursery available, 8:45 a.m.

9:00 a.m. Sung Mass

11:00 a.m.  Solemn High Mass

This Week at Ascension + December 4, 2019

From the Rector
Also from the Rector
Upcoming at the Ascension
Ascension Book Group
Sharing Lunch, Sharing Blessings
This Sunday at Ascension
The Parish Prayer List
Approved Vestry Minutes Online
The Last Word


Tips for a stress-free holiday 
"To achieve great things, two things are needed:
a plan and not quite enough time."
   - Leonard Bernstein
"Sometimes it appears as if it is only
when we are most radically shattered
that the boundless grace of divine Love
comes pouring in."
   - Mirabai Starr
Dear people of Ascension,
   Subject: Tips for a stress-free holiday
   From: The Church Pension Group
That email came to my Inbox yesterday. "Join us for our free online webinar!' I admit that it kind of stressed me out. But why? Well, the notion that I should be able to plan and realize stress-free holidays adds to, rather than diminishes, my stress.
Furthermore, the 'true spirit of the holidays' does not begin with peace and joy. Consider our Advent Gospel readings: '... as it was in the days of Noah ..." " ... you brood of vipers!" "Joseph ... planned to dismiss her quietly." Based on these readings, stress seems to be spiritually and theologically intrinsic to these holy days, rather than alien and subversive.
In a New York Times Opinion piece from this past Saturday, Anglican (ACNA) priest Tish Harrison Warren reminds us:
To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness. Advent holds space for our grief, and it reminds us that all of us, in one way or another, are not only wounded by the evil in the world but are also wielders of it, contributing our own moments of unkindness or impatience or selfishness.
No escaping stress there; Mother Harrison Warren suggests, in fact, that we are to lean into it if ever we are to find our way beyond it.
Choices we will make in the coming weeks will no doubt aggravate or diminish stress, for ourselves and others. Perhaps we will see some instance of it as emblematic of the whole quandary of our human condition. Perhaps we will then be more truly ready for Christmas.


Advent Quiet Morning, December 14, 8:45-12:30,
with Seminarian David Knox

Let us get together to for a few hours to focus our thoughts on the coming of Christ: past, present, and future. We will rest in an oasis of (mostly) stillness and contemplation, including morning prayer, Healing Mass, and concluding with Noonday prayer. Our meditation and prayer will center on the Four Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Death, and Judgement. For the Christian these are not morbid contemplations, but they are serious. It is my hope that after this time together each of us will have a clearer and more vivid awareness of the nearness of Jesus as we journey through Advent.

The program starts at 8:45; coming a few minutes early would be good. Please let me know if you plan to come so that I have enough materials; and please show up at the last minute if you wish.
Preparation: Pray simply,
"Lord Jesus let me come to know you better."

Please contact me with any questions: Text 217-725-1361, or email

Please join me in welcoming Father Alonzo Pruitt. We'll be seeing him at both weekday and Sunday masses and on other occasions. (He said the Noon mass today, in fact, and will be with us this coming Sunday.) Since letting you know a few months ago that we'd be seeing more of him, Father Pruitt has completed a year of service as Priest-In-Charge at St. Andrew's Church, Chicago. The always-small congregation has long worshiped in the chapel at the St. Leonard's Ministries facility not far from the United Center. Plans are in the works, as I understand it, to convert the chapel into additional space for St. Leonard's unique and critical work with men and women returning to civilian life after incarceration. Please pray for all involved at St. Leonard's (including our own Jim Lenz) and for all who have taken part in and contributed to the ministry of St. Andrew's there over the years.

The street view of St. Andrew's Church, 49 N Hoyne Av., on the premises of St. Leonard's Ministries

Your participation in financial stewardship is - and will be - greatly appreciated ... 
Treasurer Susan Schlough reports that, as of November 30, member giving for 2019 is 9% below what the Vestry budgeted based on our pledge commitments a year ago. Please if you are able, fulfill your pledge by year's end.
As of yesterday, December 3, we've received 42 pledges for 2020 - a reassuring increase from the 13 I reported in mid-November, but we are still hoping for more 2020 pledge responses, both from those who normally pledge and new members.
The Wardens, Vestry members and Treasurer join me in thanking those who have pledged to date and all for whom giving to the church is a valued spiritual discipline.
The ordination of the Rev. Shawn Evelyn to the Sacred Order of Priests will take place Saturday, December 14, 11:00 a.m. at St. James' Cathedral. As you may know, he is married to Mother Anna Broadbent and they reside in the coach house behind the Convent of St. Anne. Since his ordination as Deacon last June, he has been serving at St. Paul and the Redeemer, Hyde Park. Please keep him and all to be ordained that day in prayer.

My sermon for Thanksgiving Day may be found here.
My sermon for this past Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, may be found here.

I was so taken by Mother Trish Harrison Warren's New York Times OpEd piece that I've shared it in full as today's Last Word, below. Her personal website may be found here .

Our Junior Warden Gary Alexander is back ... back again for roles in Drury Lane Theater's annual production/adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol. This year, Gary is playing both Mr. Fezzwig The Charity Man ... in over 25 performances!

Wednesday, December 4th
Commemoration of
John of Damascus

Evening Prayer, 6:10 p.m.
Said Mass, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, December 7th
Commemoration of
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

Morning Prayer, 9:30 a.m.
Healing Mass, 10:00 a.m.

Ë    Wednesday, December 11
   Sharing Lunch, Sharing Blessings
   preceded by 12:05 pm Mass
Ë    Saturday, December 14
   Advent quiet morning
   8:45 a.m. - Noon
   led by seminarian David Knox
Ë    Tuesday, December 24
     Christmas Eve
     10:30 p.m. Motets & Carols
     11:00 p.m. Procession and  Solemn  High Mass of the Nativity
Ë    Wednesday, December 25
     Christmas Day
     10:00 a.m. Choral Mass
Ë    Monday, January 6, 2020
     The Feast of the Epiphany
7:00 p.m. Sung Mass with Ascension Schola


The Ascension Book Group will meet to discuss their November selections, two novels of Charles Brockden Brown, in Wheeler Hall on Sunday, December 8 at 1:00 p.m. after the Coffee Hour. Refreshments will be provided. For any questions please contact Ken Kelling at (773) 853-2337 or .  
Come and join us for a Christmas  smörgåsbord!

" Let every heart prepare Him room " will be the theme of our Sharing Lunch, Sharing Blessings gathering on  
Wednesday, December 11, 2019.  During Advent, it is easy to become preoccupied with shopping, decorating, making special foods, and other activities -- but how do we prepare our hearts for the mystery of the Incarnation?  After a traditional smörgåsbord lunch prepared by Carol Noren, you are invited to share a seasonal practice you have adopted and/or recommend that draws you closer to the manger where "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."  Please join us --and bring a friend!-- for mass at 12:05 p.m., followed by the meal and program.


The schedule of Sunday Readings, Celebrants, Preachers, Lectors, Acolytes, Ushers, Hymnody, Choral and Organ Repertoire for  Sunday, December 8, 2019  may be found by clicking here . More information on the Choral repertoire may be found by clicking here . The Clergy Rota for this week's and upcoming masses may be found here.


Please remember these people in your daily prayers
Geoffrey Wainwright, Fr. John Graham, Mary Lou Devens, Michael Milano, Charley Taylor, August 'Augie' Alonzo, Ted Long, Jim Berger, Ethel Martin, Yuka Asai, Dean Pineda, Bazelais Suy, Carnola Malone, Charlene MacDougal, Doreen Finn, Monica, Jim Lo Bello, Jack Johnston, Patricia Johnston, Andy, Jim Walsh, Char Yurema, Stewart Marks, Ronn Garton, Vanessa Rogers

Prayers for the departed

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


The Approved Minutes of Vestry meetings are now available online to parishioners who request the link. If you would like Internet access to the Approved Vestry Minutes, please email the  Church Office and request the link. 
Once you access the web page, you can read all recent Approved Vestry Minutes. In addition, if you click on the subscribe button at the top right, you will be given email notice whenever a new set of Approved Minutes is added. 


Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness
How I fell in love with the season of Advent.
By Tish Harrison Warren
Ms. Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and author of "Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life."


Nov. 30, 2019

Advent lighting in the Marktkirche, Hanover, Germany

As darkness lengthens in late fall, we begin to see the signs of the season - advertisements with giant red bows atop new cars, Christmas music blasting everywhere, the heightened pace of holiday hustle and bustle, lights and garlands speckling every corner of the city.
But inside many church buildings, this time of year looks different. There, we find a countercultural sparseness. The altar is covered in purple, the color of both royalty and repentance. There's a slowing down, a silent stillness. The music turns to minor keys and becomes contemplative, even mournful. The Scripture readings are apocalyptic and trippy, strikingly short on sweet tales of babies, little lambs and Christmas stars. In this small space, Christmas season has not yet begun. The church waits in Advent.
In the church calendar, every period of celebration is preceded by a time of preparation. Historically, Advent, the liturgical season that begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, is a way to prepare our hearts (and minds and souls) for Christmas. For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth - that light has come into darkness and, as the Gospel of John says, "the darkness could not overcome it." But Advent bids us first to pause and to look, with complete honesty, at that darkness.
To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness. Advent holds space for our grief, and it reminds us that all of us, in one way or another, are not only wounded by the evil in the world but are also wielders of it, contributing our own moments of unkindness or impatience or selfishness.
I'm well aware that for most Americans, Christmas has less to do with contemplating the incarnation of Jesus than celebrating friends, family, reindeer and Black Friday sales. Even among observant Christians, the holiday season has often been flattened into a sentimental call to warm religious feelings (if not a charged yet pointless argument over "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas"). Still, I think Advent offers wisdom to the wider world. It reminds us that joy is trivialized if we do not first intentionally acknowledge the pain and wreckage of the world.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that original sin is the "only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." The believer and atheist alike can agree that there is an undeniable brokenness to the world, a sickness that needs remedy. Whether we assign blame to human sinfulness, a political party, corporate greed, ignorance, tribalism or nationalism (or some of each), we can admit that things are not as they should be - or at least, not as we wish they were.
I did not grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, knowing what it was. Like many Americans, my family began celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. When I started attending an Anglican church in my late 20s, Advent drew me in. With its quiet beauty and doleful hymns, this season made intuitive emotional sense to me.
American culture insists that we run at breathless pace from sugar-laced celebration to celebration - three months of Christmas to the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, and on and on. We suffer from a collective consumerist mania that demands we remain optimistic, shiny, happy and having fun, fun, fun.
But life isn't a Disney Cruise. The tyranny of relentless mandatory celebration leaves us exhausted and often, ironically, feeling emptier. Many of us suffer from "holiday blues," and I wonder whether this phenomenon is made worse by the incessant demand for cheer - the collective lie that through enough work and positivity, we can perfect our lives and our world.
I do not want to be the Grinch tsk-tsking anyone for decorating the tree early or firing up "Jingle Bell Rock" before the 25th. I'm all for happiness, joy, eggnog, corny sweaters and parties, but to rush into Christmas without first taking time to collectively acknowledge the sorrow in the world and in our own lives seems like an inebriated and overstuffed practice of denial.
The church, after all, reserves 12 whole days for feasting and festivity during Christmas. Both darkness and light are real, and our calendar gives time to recall both. But in the end, Christians believe the light is more real and more enduring. There is still good news to celebrate, even when - perhaps especially when - it's been a hard year.
The arrival of Christmas Day is not the culmination of the holiday season, but merely the starting pistol for almost two weeks of good food and drink, parties and community gatherings, lights and gifts, service and time together. Times of worship become jubilant and joyful: White replaces purple, babies are finally placed in mangers, and Christmas carols fill the air.
My church community tries to keep the party going for 12 whole days, which can be a little hard when everyone else's tree is on the curb and school is starting up again, but we try nonetheless. Christians are called to take up celebration as intentionally as they take up waiting.
We need communal rhythms that make deliberate space for  both  grief and joy. For me, the old saying rings true: Hunger is the best condiment. Abstaining, for a moment, from the clamor of compulsive jollification, and instead leaning into the reality of human tragedy and of my own need and brokenness, allows my experience of glory at Christmastime to feel not only more emotionally sustainable but also more vivid, vital and cherished.
Our response to the wrongness of the world (and of ourselves) can often be an unhealthy escapism, and we can turn to the holidays as anesthesia from pain as much as anything else. We need collective space, as a society, to grieve - to look long and hard at what is cracked and fractured in our world and in our lives. Only then can celebration become deep, rich and resonant, not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope.

Fr. Patrick Raymond,

Susan Schlough,      

Parish Office