Advent V

Here is yesterday's homily from St Petroc Monastery, for the fifth and final Sunday of Advent.

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT

This is the last Sunday before the celebration of the Holy Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ of God, the last few days in which we might as a special effort of this season, prepare ourselves with fasting and prayer for the coming of the Lord. In a sense, we do this symbolically, and in another sense, we do it in all reality. We do not know the time or the hour of the Second Comin - any more than we know the time or the hour of our death. The preparation for both is exactly the same: We need to make ourselves painfully aware of our shortcomings from the ideal of us that exists in the mind of God.

That perfect “us”, which exists in His mind, is the perfection that we should strive for, however dimly we may perceive it. Attempting to reach that perfection is a lifelong preparation (however late in life we begin) for the real life which stretches before us throughout all eternity. A lifelong effort, a life spent in praparation. Not just our time at the Divine Liturgy, nor just our time spent in formal prayer to God, but the whole of our life is the praparation.

We humans however, are fitful and inconsistent in our efforts. We try a little, and then we are distracted and follow other thoughts. Again we try a little and all too soon, we are distracted again by the bright colours of life around us. We live in a society packed full of gaudy distractions, the possessions, the activities. All in themselves innocent enough, but for us, deadly in their effect of successfully distracting us from our proper concentration. Just as those innocent pastimes which distract a student from his studies are deadly to the object of passing exams, so too are our many innocent activities deadly to our hopes for the real future. Christians have always been accused of being kill-joys. After all, we have been put here in this beautiful God-made planet, ought we not to enjoy it - as God intended? Yes, if we are attaining to the state of innocence that God also intended. Yet we are obviously not so.

Just look around at the dreadful mess that we have made of large tracts of the once-innocent planet, and then look at the dreadful mess that we have made, generation after generation, of ourselves. We are not the innocent Children of God that we ought to be. Nor are we making the serious effort to achieve that state, that we ought to be making. That is why Christians down the ages have thought to set aside distinct periods each year to draw our attention back from the distractions of life, to the main chance, periods of fasting, reading the Scriptures and prayer - with an intensity greater than we normally manage in the course of our busy, distracted lives. The normal business of the Orthodox Believer: Family, children, earning a living, keeping an ordered, Godly household is his proper concern. If done in a context of frequent conversation with God, ascertaining His will and aligning with it, attending the Divine Liturgy and frequently receiving Holy Communion, and following the precepts that Christ taught, and with a good will, then the Orthodox Believer is following Christ’s Way, and is preparing himself for the life to come. Yet we know all this, the problem is keeping focussed upon it.

4 responses:

Mark said...

I'm confused by the Orthodox calendar... when does Advent begin?

Michael said...

Well there's a question and a half!

In the Eastern Rite, there isn't any such thing as Advent. There is certainly a fast in preparation for Nativity but it doesn't correlate to any particular liturgical season, although there are special hymns for the days leading up to Nativity. This fast begins on the 15th of November (which is the 28th of November in the Gregorian calendar).

In the Orthodox Western Rite (according to which I generally structure my blog), it varies from rite to rite, much like in the Catholic church. In the West, there has never been a universally set length of Advent, and it has varied from anywhere between four and nine weeks in different times and places.

Currently, in the Catholic church, for example, the Ambrosian Rite begins Advent six Sundays before Christmass and the Roman Rite begins Advent four Sundays before Christmass. I don't know how long Advent is in the Mozarabic rite.

In Orthodoxy, the Western Rite churches under the Patriarchate of Antioch will all have an Advent of four Sundays.

In general, Western Rite churches under the Russian Church Abroad (my own jurisidction), will have an Advent of five Sundays, yesterday being the fifth, with Christmass being next Sunday, the 25th of December (or 7th January in the Gregorian calendar). The exception to this is the monastery of Christminster in Rhode Island, which, being a monastery, has some leeway in following its own local usage, and has an Advent of four Sundays, yesterday being the fourth.

I don't know whether that clears things up or just muddies the waters even more but if you will ask questions that have complex answers...

:-p

Mark said...

No; I think it clears it up...

So you began Advent the same time as 'us', but your Christmas is in a week. That makes sense.

Now, not to be the rain on your parade, but I liked your blue - not sure I like the white - but it will grow on me, no doubt.

Michael said...

You're the second person to say that. One or two others have commented favourably. It is a bit of a change and I suppose it did look a bit bland before I edited the colours of the text but I think the white background gives it a crisper, cleaner feel. Do you not think so?

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