Peace and Good in Christ!
We come to the beginning of another Advent. We have done it many times before, and will probably do so again. Only God knows the future. And we come to the beginning of another liturgical Church year. We come again to a time of penance and conversion; "Lent with a little sugar on top," as I have often said. There is not necessarily anything new to be said. Most of what we would say has been said before by many others. But "repetition is the mother of learning."
What strikes me with this is our notion of moving through time. In the west we usually think of time as having a beginning and an end. It can be seen as a line that starts in one place, and goes to another. In the east people think of time as a circle without beginning or end. There are strengths and weaknesses with both. The weakness of linear time is that it gets so goal oriented that it can fail to live in the present moment. The problem with cyclic time is that it can lull us into a state of sluggishness.
Pope Benedict XVI has put these two concepts together in a kind of "corkscrew" approach to time. It is both cyclic in that it goes round and round, and linear in that it begins and ends someplace. I really like this description. It is typically brilliant and insightful of Pope Benedict XVI.
For many years I have proposed a similar model; that of a spiral staircase that goes up or down when viewed from the side, but seems to go round and round in the same space when viewed from below or above. This model emphasizes that ordinary life tends to go round and round with the same mundane issues over and over again. What makes our progress good or bad is which direction we are going. St. Peter Damien of the 11th century semi eremitical reform of western monasticism, and a leading cardinal of the Church of his day, says that you either go up or down every day of your life. If you try to stand still you begin a downward spiral.
Life is a decision. Love is a decision. The question is what we will do as the same issues of life come around again and again. Will we choose to follow Jesus this Advent, and continue our journey upward to heaven? Or will we just stop trying and begin a slow downward spiral?
Chances are we elder members of the Church will not hear much new this Advent. Chances are that we have heard it all pretty much before. But the challenge of what we do with the message of Jesus for us this Advent remains a matter of life or death for us all. We can choose to follow Jesus, or we can just give up, or block it all out once more.
This Advent, rise to the challenge. Though the issues might seem to get old, the challenge never gets old. It is always new because every day of our life is new. Let's convert, let's do penance, let's rise and walk up the spiral staircase with the help of the grace of God. Let's not get lulled into to a sense of the all too familiar and try to stand still. It only leads to falling back down the stairs. It leads to sin, sadness, and spiritual death. Jesus wants us to have life and have it abundantly. This Advent let's choose life, and live. God grant you a most blessed Advent this year!
John Michael Talbot