"From Darkness to Light, our Advent Procession is part of a long and very special tradition of Advent services in this place. As the title suggests, the Cathedral begins in complete silence and darkness. Then the Advent Candle is lit and a lone voice sings in the darkness of “the power of God” coming to earth.
This service marks the beginning of Advent, the period when we prepare for the Lord’s coming. In atmospheric surroundings, and in readings, movement and song, we tell the story of patriarchs and prophets, people of old who, though active in different times and places, all looked eagerly for the adventus or “arrival” of the Light.
The opening Responsory, from the Sarum Breviary, states that all people together, “High and low, rich and poor, one with another”, go out to meet God. As the service progresses, and more voices join in, the whole congregation becomes absorbed into the drama. More candles are lit, and the light expands eastwards, arriving ultimately at the altar.
The service is made up of “O” antiphons and bible readings, anthems and carols, all connected with the theme of Advent. The “O” antiphons, sung by the Plainsong Choir, are an ancient Advent tradition. They address Christ and are traditionally used at Evening Prayer before and after the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, in the days leading up to Christmas, when the sense of anticipation is at its highest.
The Sarum Rite, a set of texts and rituals relating specifically to Salisbury that date back to medieval times, unusually had eight “O” antiphons instead of the usual seven. The eighth, “O Virgin of virgins,” is included in the service this evening. We mark the new season through these ancient texts, words and music of great beauty and meaning that still move us today.
The Cathedral Choir anthems, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “There is a flower springing,” point directly to Jesus, the fulfilment of our Advent longing. We come together this evening as different people, all united by our desire to find meaning and hope. As the processions move across the vast spaces of the building and the Cathedral is filled with light, we are invited again to engage our senses and imagination, as we prepare ourselves once more for the coming of Christ."