Humility and Assurance

St John the Baptist by El Greco
St John the Baptist

On the Second Sunday of Advent our eyes are on John the Baptist. What a strange mixture of humility and assurance he is. Or rather, how his humility confounds our ideas about both.

It was precisely because John was so humble that he could be so assured. Like Moses in the Old Testament, he was “the humblest man on earth”; and his humility and assurance came, like Moses’, from his sense of the nearness of his God.

One who is close to God tends to see as God sees, and that perspective is utterly transforming. John looked at the world, saw the beauty and holiness of its Creator and wanted everyone and everything to share that transforming vision. Hence his passion and his joy, his severity and tenderness. He could not contain himself, so near was our salvation. If he were silent, the very stones would speak. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This Advent the grace of sharing that transforming vision, of repenting, of turning again to God, is offered to each of us, if we will but accept it. Only the molehills of pride and self-sufficiency stand in the way, but we know how easily we stumble over them. Let’s ask St John the Baptist, with his humility and assurance, to show us the right path. For, as he himself would say, there is no other Way but One, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Waiting in Hope

There is a sentence in the first preface of Advent that never fails to make me shiver. In our current translation it reads:

Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
when Christ the Lord will come again in his glory.

Surrounded by the commercialism of the “Winterval” being celebrated in our shopping malls or the flurry of Nativity plays and special Services that already dominate our church noticeboards, it is only too easy to forget. We are not awaiting the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas, as though it were something that has not yet happened (although we shall recall that event through our liturgical remembrance of it); we are awaiting those two comings of Christ of which St Bernard wrote: his coming now to our souls by grace and his coming in glory at the end of time.

Christ coming now to our souls by grace is all right, rather nice in fact; but that bit about coming again in his glory is more problematic. We are jerked into an awareness of the danger of presumption. As the preface says, we are “hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours”. We cannot take it for granted, yet in practice most of us do.

How many of us are thinking about the final coming of Christ this Advent? If we do think about it, how many of us are eagerly awaiting it? I suspect that many of us think of the Final Coming as an event far distant in the future, which might not even happen. Perhaps it would be worth thinking about what we really mean when we pray the preface at Mass. It might possibly transform our Advent.

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Shame on a Salisbury Street

Yesterday an elderly man fell in a Salisbury street and lay there, in freezing temperatures, for nearly five hours before a passer-by called an ambulance.

I don’t, for one minute, think that the citizens of Salisbury are any more callous than the citizens of anywhere else, but this incident does highlight something of the bleakness that has crept into society. We are afraid to get involved. Much safer to pass by on the other side rather than deal with someone who may be drunk or on drugs or otherwise a “danger” to us.

It won’t wash, of course. Like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper. It may seem a huge task, to keep our humanity when society urges us to “look after number one”, but is there any other option? Advent is about bringing light into darkness, and there is no greater darkness than that which we find in our own hearts, the darkness of fear and selfishness which makes us shrink from the Light and cripples our humanity.

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A new blog for a new world

Long ago, when printers still made books using paper and ink, we began a blog called Colophon because it appeared at the end of our web site and told people something about what made up our lives as nuns. Four and a half years later, it has become unwieldy – probably because contemplative nuns let their keyboards run away with them, given half the chance. Not only that but the blog engine we used has been superseded technically and it’s now possible to craft a typographically more attractive site without finding that Internet Explorer users are facing a blank screen. The world has changed, and so have we.

Advent is a time for new beginnings, so we have archived our old blog and begun this new one which you can get to either by coming straight to this address or, after the week-end, by going through our community web site. The RSS feed has been burned with Feedburner, so we’ll see how that works out.

Our web site makeover is nearing completion (quiet alleluias from Digitalnun) and should be online within 48 hours. There are bound to be teething problems but patience is often described as being the fourth Benedictine vow. Maybe we’ll end up making Benedictines of all our readers.

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