Lessons and Carols back on campus


Every year in December, University of San Diego welcomes the campus community to congregate in Founders Chapel to enjoy Lessons and Carols. The event, which is open to the general public, is a Christmas tradition that dates back well past 100 years ago, and is observed around the globe. Although the first festival of its kind can be traced to Truro, Cornwall, England, in 1880, the most well-known version of these joyous communal events hails from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge University in England, which has been a tradition each year from 1918 to the present day.

Lessons and Carols is described by USD’s Francis G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture (CCTC) as a festival in word and song to prepare for Christmas. The celebration is structured so that the powerful readings that are selected from the Old and New Testaments are interspersed with divine music throughout the ceremony. Thus, as the merriment unfolds in Founders Chapel, the congregation is encouraged to contemplate the birth of Jesus in the context of its significance in salvation history.

Miranda Rappoldt, USD sophomore, former Lessons and Carols attendee, and candle bearer at this year’s upcoming celebration, shares her enthusiasm for the festival, recalling her first Lessons and Carols experience.

“I was actually in the event last year, and I first signed up because they were looking for volunteers,” Rappoldt said. “I thought it would be a good way to prepare for Christmas and really get in the spirit.”

According to USD’s CCTC, the overall theme of the celebration this year is based on the Magnificat, which is understood as the Blessed Virgin Mary’s reply to her cousin Elizabeth’s praise of her faith, as retold in the Gospel of Luke. The purpose of the Magnificat is to establish the underlying context for the the entire celebration. This is so that the audience may take into consideration that during this time of year.

Following the musical preludes that are curated to apply to the theme and occasion, the event will start off with some readings from the Old Testament, that are related to the promises God made to Israel. From there, the reading will move on to cover the texts from the Prophets that depict the sorry state of humanity and the need for the coming Messiah.

However, not all of the carols and hymns that will be sung pertain solely to the readings chosen for this year’s celebration, the USD community will also get to chime in on some beloved holiday favorites. Past Lessons and Carols festivals have included, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “Joy to the World”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming” and “What Child is This”.

Each year, Universtiy of San Diego staff, faculty, and students aid with the preparations for Lessons and Carols and also volunteer to participate in the procession. During the event itself, some will be bearing the Book of Gospels, candles, or banners, as well as delivering the readings – a.k.a. the lessons – themselves.

Rappoldt believes that Lessons and Carols is such an appealing event for the USD community to engage in.

“It’s a very traditional way to get in the Christmas spirit, and an out of the ordinary way to prepare yourself for Christmas!” Rappoldt said.

The event takes place on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m., and will occur again Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. Lessons and Carols will be free and open to the public, no RSVP required.