British politicians seem to have adopted ‘the right thing to do’ as their catch-phrase of choice. It suggests high moral purpose, deep thought and a noble sticking to principle. I shall be very surprised if David Cameron does not tell Parliament this afternoon that exercising Britain’s veto at the E.U. summit was ‘the right thing to do’.
The trouble with claiming something is ‘the right thing to do’ is that very few choices in life are simple, and a bad or ill-informed decision cannot be defended by appealing to some vague conception of ‘rightness’. On the other hand, we all regularly have to make decisions on the basis of imperfect knowledge and imperfect grasp of possible consequences. Today’s collect captures this sense of moral confusion by asking the light of Christ to shine on the darkness of our heart, tenebras cordis nostri. The darkness (tenebrae) referred to is a little more definite than mere obscuritas but not quite so intense as caligo — not darkness as a deliberate choice of evil so much as darkness caused by laziness or lack of knowledge.
Advent calls us out into the desert in order to rediscover what the Covenant is all about, to prepare a highway for God in our hearts, to allow the light of Christ to shine on our darkness. We may be in a fog about many things, but turning to the Lord is always the right thing to do. As Hosea assures us, he is our Teacher who will show us the way — if we are prepared to listen.