The Liturgical Year begins on the First Sunday of Advent. The current year is Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary.
The start of Advent is marked each year in the Abbey with a Carol Service, From Darkness to Light, at which the meaning of Advent is explored through the use of readings, choral music, light and darkness.
In the evening of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a Christingle service is held at 6pm. This short family service is followed by carol singing round the Abbey Christmas tree and is always very popular with families.
Christmas celebrations begin with an informal families and shoppers carol serivce at 3pm on Christmas Eve. Then there is the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 7.30 pm. Traditional readings and seasonal choral music combine to make this service one of the liturgical highlights of the Abbey’s year. At 11.30 pm,a Midnight Carol Service brings in Christmas Day with a mixture of traditional readings and carols sung by the congrergation.
On Christmas Day, Holy Communion is celebrated at 10.30 am. The choir, accompanied by a small orchestral ensemble, sings one of the great Christmas communion settings, often Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit.
On Epiphany Sunday, children ‘bring in’ the Wise Men thus completing our nativity scene.
Children also play a prominent role in our Candlemas Service on the Sunday nearest 2nd February when the light of Christ is taken to different parts of the Abbey and then out into the world.
The start of Lent on Ash Wednesday is marked with a service of Holy Communion at 7.30 pm. Music on this occasion will often include Allegri’s Miserere
Om Palm / Passion Sunday the service begins with the commemoration of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem followed by the Reading of the Passion Narrative by young people form the congregation.
On Good Friday the Three Hour Vigil from 12 noon to 3 pm, marking our Lord’s final three hours on the cross, comprises the reading of the Passion Narrative in John’s account, choral music appropriate for the day and a performance of Haydn’s Seven Last Words from the Cross.
Easter Day is undoubtedly another of the liturgical high points in the Abbey’s worship. Accompanied by an orchestra, the choir will sing one of the great communion settings, usually Mozart’s Coronation Mass.
Descants, alleluias and joy are hallmarks of all our services from Easter Day through to Pentecost.
The long series of Sundays in Ordinary Time (or Sundays after Trinity) is punctuated with a number of special days, such as Battle of Britain Sunday and the Harvest Festival.
In November, the season of the Kingdom is a time of remembrance with All Saints Day and All Souls Day at the beginning of the month and Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of the month.
The Church Year ends with the celebration of the Reign of Christ the King on the Sunday before Advent … and then a new church year begins again!