A Different View of Advent
On Saturday 28 November, I joined about thirty other churchgoers from Peterborough to listen to Monsignor Andrew Faley, Assistant General Secretary to the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, give some comments on Advent, and how we can use it to reconsider our personal Christian journey. His sessions were humorous, thought provoking, but also wide-ranging in content and these notes are but a disjointed (and disconnected?) recollection of my jottings at the time.
We were reminded that Advent actually falls into two halves. The second half is, of course, preparing for the birth of Jesus, but the first half is preparing for the second coming of our Lord – and it was thinking about that part which led Mgr Faley to his reflections for the day. Whilst we all agree that, as Christians, we are on a journey, we must consider that it is a life-long journey which is not completed this side of death: at the same time we must be ready for Christ’s coming at any time.
With that in mind, Advent is a time for us to ‘re-align’ ourselves on that journey – check the compass (if we can find it!) and make sure that we are travelling in the right direction – and, preferably, on the right road.
This a time for us to ask three questions of ourselves:-
a) How do I relate self to self? Am I aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures; can I live with, and be comfortable with, the knowledge that I am who I am? The point was made that Genesis begins with God’s creation and his pleasure in it – it is only later that human sin rears its ugly head. Perhaps we should spend less time in absorption with our faults and worthlessness, and remind ourselves that God’s Grace came first and is more important to celebrate.
b) How do I relate self to others? Do I consider others as important as myself and project the right message to them and self to the world (to our creation). I liked Andrew’s comment about how we treat others when he said that we should ‘play to the heart and not jangle the nerves of the brain’.
c) How do I relate to the world – to God’s creation? We are only part of God’s creation and have a responsibility to whole of it. Perhaps our almost innate urge to get out into the country – to commune with nature, if you like – is just a manifestation (and a good one) of that responsibility.
There is often a difficulty in accepting the concept that God became human – not just as a role-player – but 100% human, with all the failings, desires, abilities, ambitions, rage and love that we have ourselves. Yet, at the same time, God was, and is, God incarnate. We were made in his image: our soul and our flesh are not separable, they are part of the whole and we approach our souls through the flesh. Another quote, ‘we start our life by breathing in, we end our life by breathing out’. It is down to us to make the most of the bit in between, remembering that God did not create us and walk away, he is always there, in our soul.
Andrew told the story of a street pastor who was in a pub; a drunk said to him “why are you here, you should be in church!” The pastor replied “I am here, because you are here.” Christianity, you see, only works in contact with humanity, not in isolation.
A cleric was showing a friend his new church. It was a splendid building – a large, round, clear area with all the latest drop-down screens, digital audio systems etc. The cleric said “it is brilliant, everyone can see from all parts of the building.” “Yes,” said his friend, “but there are no pillars for people to cry behind.” There are times of darkness in all our lives and we must accept that – after all, we need darkness in order to see the light.
It was a great day, in lovely surroundings (the re-modelled St John Fisher school is quite something); the lunch was good and no-one fell asleep after it. Thanks to the organisers and to Monsignor Andrew – I had food for the body and food for the soul, and am content.