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First Sunday of Advent
The First Week of Advent 2022
These reflections are drawn from the readings for the four Sundays of Advent, which is a season in itself and the run-up to Christmas. The best benefit comes from reading the scripture passages themselves — so the references are given and are available on the wccm.org website. The reflections themselves might also be usefully read during the rest of the week, not only on Sunday.
Let’s begin this Advent by understanding that God does not exist. God is. Eternal, unchanging, boundless, unimaginable, whom ‘no one has seen or can ever see’. Somehow and for a reason we can never objectify but only experience, God spoke into existence what did not exist before. Humanly we get a feel for this through our own creativity, making a poem or a lasagne that did not exist before, or enjoying the is-ness of breath-taking moments of music or a child’s wonder at the world they are just discovering. Creating something new is a way for us to sense what our existence is for: which, as we begin a new church year, we should remember is not less than that we can become the one who created us. God became human so that human beings can become God.
As a schoolboy I remember having heated discussions with friends about the ‘existence of God’ similar to the arguments of the late Christopher Hitchens who campaigned for years against God across the media as one might vehemently deny the existence of unicorns or Sherlock Holmes. Of course, God doesn’t exist. God is. From the first moment of the biblical revelation God said nothing about (himself) except ‘I am who I am”. Hello Being, what’s up?.
Yet today we begin the preparation for the existence of God. God does exist but through (his) self-manifesting in what (he) created and keeps in existence by the continuousness of creation. As I make a new paragraph that didn’t exist before God says let the new paragraph exist, let the keyboard and the semi-conductors exist, let Laurence exist in all his oddness.
God exists through us. This became implicit on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation when the human foetus of Jesus was conceived) and becomes explicit, nine months later, on December 25th when the infant Jesus enters the world. Our faith in God is given a whole new dimension and vivacity by our sensing the way God moves from being into existence through the human.
Because this seems a lot to take in, we need time to ponder and prepare for it. This time is called Advent (meaning literally ‘coming towards us’). To feel this strange truth approaching in the next few weeks we could not do better than to take our meditation times more seriously.
After some years of practice, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to fall asleep in meditation (which I can do) rather than yawn in the middle of meditation. The disciples fell asleep involuntarily more than once and Jesus probably did too. But yawning could mean you’re being lazy, half-hearted, pretending. To see that the God who is becomes the God who exists we need to be fully awake. Hence the teaching in today’s gospel: ‘Stay awake.’ Wouldn’t it be sad to miss the moment in our own brief life-span where this birth happens? ‘You too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’.
Laurence Freeman, OSB
Bonnevaux, November 27, 2022
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