Pre-Advent and the Book of Daniel

Today, at Morning Prayer, we conclude our reading of the Book of Daniel, with all its strange imagery on the one hand, and yet its familiar stories of Daniel in the lion’s den, and that of Daniel’s three companions and the fiery furnace, and perhaps most mysterious of all, the writing on the wall (a phrase that has become a much used saying) at Belshazzar’s feast.

The book ends, with more mysterious imagery and prophecy, but also with the proclamation, “Blessed is he who waits…..”  Exactly what that wait entails, or leads to, is not clear, but the New Testament writers, and the Early Church generally, understood this and other passages as indicating a climax in the coming of the Kingdom, which was revealed and brought about by the appearance of Jesus.  To them the promises were being fulfilled.  What was hidden became revealed.

For this reason, the Book of Daniel is one of the texts read in preparation for the season of Advent, which is only a week away now.  But, tomorrow is the “Feast of Christ the King”, or in the old reckoning “Stir up Sunday”, from the opening words of the Collect for, “The Sunday next before Advent”.  Interestingly, Cranmer placed this Collect on the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, giving the instruction that, should there be more than twenty five Sundays after Trinity in a given year, that the extra Collects are taken from the end of the Sundays after the Epiphany Collects, and placed in between the Twenty-fourth and the Twenty-fifth Sundays after Trinity, so Trinity 25 was always just prior to Advent Sunday.

The title, “The Sunday next before Advent” is from the Sarum Missal, and though avoided by Cranmer, it was first restored to the Book of Common Prayer in America, with their revision of the Prayer Book in 1892.  I have always rather liked that naming of the Sunday that we have tomorrow, but since the time of recent liturgical revision, “Christ the King” takes precedence.

John Mann