Monday, November 28, 2016

Change of seasons: Advent comes round again

The ancient Christian liturgical year began yesterday as we entered Advent, the four weeks in which Christians annually live in expectation both of the birth of the human child who is also truly God, and of God's promise to somehow, someday, be with us in God's fullness. Both are mysteries, beyond our intellectual capacity. Liturgy -- communal ceremony -- is how we annually enact and recapitulate the many realities we sense/know, but cannot understand. I find this annual cycle profoundly grounding. Without such reminders of what I cannot grasp, wouldn't I think I knew it all?

We did not pray the traditional collect (prayer) for the season of Advent in my little parish yesterday. We offered a modern substitute. I was sorry about that. I understand that some might find the old petition outmoded and a little scary. It seems to arise out of a consciousness of life lived within a cosmic struggle between good and evil, not the usual stuff of sophisticated "modern" thought.

The prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer reads:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,....

Or, as the Rev. Scott Gunn once explained the season:

Advent is a time to remember that we followers of Jesus are meant not only to be bearers of the light, but also to vanquish evil in this life, in our world and in our own lives.

This seems particularly apt in these sad days when our country has chosen to drive further off the rails. We find ourselves fearing freefall into rapacious greed and oppression of the vulnerable and weak. The works of darkness are all around, and we're going to need all the "armor of light" we can find, wherever we find it. It's long been conveniently forgotten that the oldest Christian self-consciousness was formed in tension with the most powerful, most brutal, empire of its day. For those of us for whom this tradition is a source of meaning, there's a lot there.

Another Advent theme also seems appropriate to our current moment. "Keep awake ... you also must be ready ..." say the ancient admonitions in the Gospel passage from the book of Matthew. Or, if we want to be more contemporary, #Stay Woke in every meaning of that catch phrase. Nothin' else to do ...

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Wise words. This is a dark season, but it will not last forever.

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