Smith’s annual celebration of Advent, Vespers, was held two weeks ago in John M. Greene Hall. Smith College Chorus, Glee Club, Chamber Singers, Handbell Choir and Orchestra collaborated to produce the musical portion of the service while members of the Smith College faculty, staff and senior class read various passages from the Bible and other advent-related works.
The Reverend Matilda Cantwell delivered several remarks throughout the service emphasizing that this is a season of giving, celebration, acceptance, and repair. Students and community members filled the auditorium, singing together and reflecting on the readings. As Cantwell said in her invocation “Advent is not only a chronos, or chronological time, but it is also Karios, sacred time.” There was a wide range of people contributing to the production of this event as well as diversity in the content. Each of the nine passages were read aloud by different people and one reading was performed in Spanish.
Attendees were encouraged to give a donation, as they are able, at the conclusion of the service. Donations are given to the Friends to Hampshire County Homeless Individuals Interfaith Winter Shelter program. This shelter provides food and shelter to homeless people in the Pioneer Valley during the winter months. The Interfaith Winter Shelter began in 1994 in a community-wide response to the death of a homeless man. After being turned away from the Grove Street Inn because it was full, this man froze to death on the railway tracks.
Just as Mary and Joseph were turned away from the Inn, many people in the Pioneer Valley are forced to face the cold of winter alone and without support. Vespers calls attention to the story of Christ, how He humbly entered this world in the form of a newborn baby, becoming the light of the world and hope for the life to come. In following Christ and seeing Him in all of us, we are called to reach out to the hungry, cold, homeless, and needy. This year’s Vespers service experienced a record-breaking year with the free will donations and turnout.
In Cantwell’s benediction, she again touched on the sacred nature of this time. This season of advent is a time of peace and relaxation, but it is also as Cantwell says, a “revolutionary season” during which “we have the wisdom to find the altar of love and peace, in unexpected places.”