The Deacon's Bench

It’s something most of us aren’t even aware of, but it is done in countless churches around the world this time of year — and the Concord Pastor reflects on its meaning:

This weekend I will observe a little ritual which it’s been my pleasure to carry out now for some 37 years. I will move the ribbons in the Sacramentary to the collects and preface for the First Sunday of Advent. The ribbon for the collects brings us back to the front of the Sacramentary such that the left hand page will not easily lie flat but will buckle up a bit against the right hand which holds a year’s worth of pages yet to pray through.

This is, I know, a small task but one which never fails to remind me that the Church is beginning a new year, another year of celebrating our life in Christ and the saving events that bind us together as the Body of Christ: a new Year of Grace.

I’ve moved those ribbons in suburban and city parishes and in campus chapels. The ribbon-turning began when I wasn’t altogether sure of where the ribbons were supposed to go. And I moved those ribbons in years when I wondered if I would remain in this ribbon-bound priesthood. I changed the ribbons in years early on when I found the Sacramentary to be somewhat limiting that same book became an old and reliable friend. I’ve actually worn out a Sacramentary or two and even before trading in for a new copy, the ribbons themselves have sometimes needed to be replaced.

I’ve turned the ribbons back to Advent in years of the Church’s grace and in years of its disgrace. Those ribbons and the book they mark have been with me for coming close to four decades and I thank God for the grace of all those years born of the prayers and rites the Sacramentary offers us.

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