Advent: 24 December

Tracy Niven
Sunday 24 December 2023

Good morning…

…on Christmas Eve.  This is the day and evening in many cultures for the family to gather around food, music and gifts.  And in the University we mark it with three services of Carols by Candlelight at St Leonard’s Chapel, at 2 pm, 4 pm and 6 pm.  All are welcome – staff, students, their family members and friends, and all others.  Doors will open for each service around 45 minutes beforehand, and experience suggests that the earlier you come, the best chance there is for a seat in the chapel (rather than a seat or standing spot in the ante-chapel).  There are still spaces for younger readers at the 2 pm and 6 pm services – let me know if a younger member of your party could read (with guaranteed seats).  St Leonard’s Chapel, in the grounds of St Leonards School, can be accessed from South Street or the Pends, close to the Cathedral.  (The service will not be live-streamed.)

The Chapel of St Leonard, as an institution, pre-dates the founding of the University.  In 1144 the Bishop of St Andrews assigned a pre-existing hospital to the Augustinian Canons of his new Cathedral Priory.  It became known as the Hospital of St Leonard, and was used mainly by pilgrims to the shrine of St Andrew.  There was a chapel as part of the Hospital.

Indeed, the oldest part of the Chapel may date from the 12th Century; by 1413, it was known as the Kirk of St Leonard, and also served as a parish church.  In 1512 the College of St Leonard’s was founded, for the education of novices of the Augustinian Order in Arts and Theology, and the chapel was extended eastwards some 30 years after its founding.  Following the Reformation it was again remodelled; it was deliberately ruined in the mid 18th Century; then gradually from 1853 until 1952, it was renovated and brought back into use as a Chapel of the University.  Today, lit beautifully by candlelight, it is used regularly for worship, for Compline every Thursday in term-time at 10 pm, and by the Orthodox community.

Fire’s flickering glow,
enough to see and sing of
everlasting light

This is the penultimate window in this year’s Advent Calendar.  Contrary to traditional calendars, there will be a window tomorrow, on Christmas morning.  Sleep well…


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