Tag Archives: Advent

18 December: Stay Awake!

“Stay Awake” is a good Advent Motto and it comes from the mouth of Jesus. We are not simply waiting for a warm, safe commemoration of his birth, though warmth and safety would be welcome this year, but we are preparing for when He comes for us in death. Over to the clear-sighted Sister Johanna.

You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.

Matthew 24:43

I have never been happy with the notion of heaven as sleep nor taken much comfort in the prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” Paradise as a place of eternal rest makes me think irreverently of mattress advertisements. I sometimes wonder why the idea of rest has settled so firmly into the collection of metaphors we use to refer to eternal life.

These are thoughts I’ve been revisiting as I meditated recently on the text of Matthew quoted at the beginning of this post. When we think of death – if we think of death (mostly we try to avoid doing so) – it is hard to view it with anything other than dread: that moment when we are wrenched out of this painful, but familiar, existence where we are at home, and bundled into the next life – a life of which we have no first-hand knowledge. In this parable, the Lord himself brings up that subject we would rather avoid and refers to himself as the “burglar.” He can only be doing this to try to help us to view our death in another light. What is he trying to tell us?

If we are frequent readers of the gospels, this burglar image may have lost some of its freshness and originality for us. But think about it. That the eternally sinless Son of God should use the metaphor of a thief to describe himself is, along with being slightly humorous, also very unconventional. But, if we decide to take his word for it and think of him for a moment as the thief, then what – or who – is the loot? Well, us. We are what he wants to ‘steal’. And his desire for us is so intense that he likens himself to the lawless burglar, who just wants what he wants what he wants, and whose method is therefore to snatch and run with the goods.

But, if we had been awake, the parable implies, we might have prevented this ‘theft.’ I think the Lord may be employing the literary device of irony here. We cannot, in this life, be ‘awake’ enough to prevent this robbery. He will come. We will die. That is a certainty. But, in light of this parable, in no way is death to be seen as a descent into ‘sleep’. On the contrary, the parable makes me think of my death in terms of a diamond heist, with the Lord as its great mastermind, and maybe ending with a thrilling chase scene, in which he gets away with me, his diamond. One can hardly sleep through that.

The Lord’s words about staying awake, then, encourage us to think about what ‘being awake’ actually means. It strikes me that being awake, as we experience it in this life, has degrees. Awake as the mere opposite of being asleep is perhaps the lowest degree. A bit higher is the idea of conscience: keeping our conscience always ‘awake’ so that we never depart from the way of virtue. Better. But not the best. How about this as the highest level: the experience of love? Don’t we feel most deeply ‘awake’ when we love deeply? This deep love awakens parts of our being that had previously been ‘asleep’ and that we didn’t even realise we had. This must be the key to understanding heaven’s type of awake-ness. So, for me, the Lord’s words about being awake are inseparable from the experience of love. Love will ‘open us up’ as it wakes us up in heaven when God surrounds us and we are filled with his loving life, when we see with his eyes and love with our hearts perfectly attuned to his own heart. We do not know the hour when the ‘burglar’ will break in, snatch us, and wake us up to eternal love. Indeed, we cannot know when. But we can know something about what, about heaven’s fulfilment. We can know something – not everything, but something. We know it, even now, when we are awake in love.

Thank you Sister Johanna, I do agree that ‘resting in peace’ does not reconcile me to Eternity and even playing frisbee with golden crowns would pall after a couple of centuries. Let’s wait in hope and see! Will.

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Going Viral LVII: Zoom, zoom, zoom to the manger.

Saint Dunstan’s from SE.

Another story from Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury. Thank you, Jo. Looking forward to the nine lessons and carols; we’ll copy your order of Service on Friday. WT.

Good morning to you all, and I do hope this finds you all well, as we are here. So yesterday I had a first, in terms of zoom Carol Service – always in St Dunstan’s we hold the annual Parkinson’s Christmas Carol Service – and a huge number come along to it, including the Mayor. Well, this year it was on zoom, and 55 of us gathered for the service. To be honest it was good to have a really good sing of a number of carols – we were all muted I hasten to add, but actually bearing in mind the current circumstances – it was ok. I know it wasn’t the real thing, but to see so many folk who were obviously thrilled to be there, catching up with one another and singing was really encouraging.

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Going viral LVI: Jo’s Joy


Here is the latest bulletin from Rev Jo Richards of St Dunstan’s, Canterbury. Advent has been a bit different this year!

I must share with you the joy of yesterday – I was invited to take a Christingle service in a local primary school – last year they packed St Dunstan’s church, twice over, and for obvious reasons they couldn’t come to St Dunstan’s and I went to school. Two assemblies – one year R 4&5 year olds, and then year 3: 7 & 8 year olds. They are making Christingles, and I took my ‘giant Christingle’ and we talked through the symbolism of it all….despite all the covid disruption these children were a delight and so interested and engaging. Then we had Q&A session. The most profound questions that came from the Yr 3 children: If Jesus was such a good person, why was he killed, where is Jesus now? How did the Resurrection take place? And this went on for about 20 mins – just amazing, and all so thoughtful, and again the children all so incredibly well behaved. It was an absolute joy to share the morning with them.

You’ve probably noticed that the ‘Going Viral’ posts are well and truly out of sequence, and have doubtless concluded either that Will has lost it, or that some posts are scheduled a little in advance, while others are posted on or soon after we hear from someone with an interesting tale. Thank you, Jo. for today and other days!

Will

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10 December: Loss and Hope in Challenging times

Loss and hope in challenging times

About this Event

Another joint event between the Irish Chaplaincy and Caritas Westminster.

During the pandemic, we have each experienced some form of loss; whether that be close contact with friends and family, a sense of purpose due to changes in work and volunteering opportunities, redundancies, unemployment, the disruption of routine, of your holiday plans, or loss due to the illness or death of someone close to us.

Join us in this time of music and prayer to reflect on these losses, and to look forward together in hope.

Register on Eventbrite here!

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3 December: follow that star!

Hale-Bopp from NASA

Yesterday was about hearing, today we are seeing hopefully. Or should I say seeing, hopefully. I’m not talking about taking note of the raindrops and kittens that we see, but about the sense of sight.

I’ve been blessed lately with two cataract operations, and sight is suddenly not to be taken for granted. Suddenly, all is Technicolor, or as my friend Winfried would have argued, Agfacolor. He favoured the German films and prints; we disagreed about the red end of the spectrum.

Seeing hopefully: this new lease of life for my eyes inspires hope. Not quite Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, but a promise that if human co-operation with creation through science can enlighten my little world, there may be better things to come.

Winfried told me that the German for a cataract in the eye translates as grey star; not a star you would want to follow.

So, I told Fr Tom Herbst (TJH in Agnellus’ Mirror) as well, soon after the first op when one eye was still under the grey star.  ‘I imagine’, he said, ‘you can well relate to the ecstasy felt by the blind folks healed by Jesus!!!’

I didn’t need him to point that out, but I was glad he did. I offered this progress report: ‘Till the second eye is done it’s a mixture of ecstasy and ‘I see trees walking’. (Mark 8:24) I hope by next week the eyes will be co-ordinating freely and I’ll recognise more people!’

Tom replied, ‘Good luck with the op. As marvellous as it might be to see trees walking (other than Ents, of course, which are not technically trees), it seems recognition might be the better choice!’

Pray that we may recognise the star we are called to follow this Advent and Christmas. It may all be a little different this year!

MMB, TJH, WOH.

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Going Viral LV: City centre Anglican plans.

Madonna and Child. St Mildred’s, Canterbury

Good morning to you all, and another beautiful morning – even some frost out there. We will be open again for Worship, from Sunday 6th December:

Corporate Worship in our church buildings: Tier three guidance – please read. We will let you know of any further updates, as we receive them.

We are in tier 3, and have to adhere to all covid-secure precautions that we had in place before this current lockdown and the following:

Please observe 2metre social distancing at all times, and we are not permitted to mix with anyone outside our household bubble either inside or outside our church buildings. However tempting it is to go and chat to someone we haven’t seen for ages, please refrain from doing so as it is a tier 3 condition that we are not to mix.

We will resume our recent pattern of services from 6th December 2020:

1st and 3rd Sundays, 9.30 at St Peter’s & 11.00 at St Mildred’s

2nd & 4th Sundays 10.00 at St Dunstan’s

Every Sunday: 8.00 at St Dunstan’s Said Eucharist

Every Wednesday 10.00 at St Mildred’s Said Eucharist

10.00 Matins on-line 1st & 3rd Sundays with John Morrison

Advent & Christmas services

Please note that all non-eucharistic services (Contemplating Advent, Nine Lessons & Carols, Epiphany Carol Service) during this difficult time are online only and will be broadcast from our church buildings.

If you are in touch with our off-liners, please can you let them know these details

Contemplating Advent: Sunday 13 December – 6.30pm online only, 

Benefice Nine Lessons & Carols: Sunday 20 December – 4.30pm online only

Christmas Eve: 

Christmas Vigil at 6.30pm St Peter’s  also recorded/live streamed

Benefice Midnight Mass – 11.30pm at St Mildred’s – booking required , with guest preacher – also recorded/live streamed

Christmas Day: 

8.00am at St Dunstan’s, Benefice Christmas  Said Eucharist – live streamed

10.00am at St Dunstan’s – Benefice Christmas Day Eucharist booking required – live streamed
Epiphany Carol Service: Sunday 3rd January 4.30pm – online only
Coffee and cake today  at 2.00 NOT at 3.00

It is difficult to keep on top of all these changes as they come about, but thank you for your patience and support, and we will keep you updated as we receive information.

Jo’s leave: a couple of weeks ago I had planned to go on retreat, needless to say that was cancelled, so instead am taking two days out walking, and will be spending much of that time in prayer.
God Bless you all at this time, and keep well.
From today’s reading in Morning Prayer: Revelation 21: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
Rev Jo Richards

Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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20 December, Simon says II: In her.

She said those words, ‘Thy will be done’.

In her God’s gracious will had won.

Simon’s couplet sent me to this painting from Plowden Catholic Church in Shropshire. Mary seems to be having a moment of weariness, such as any parent will have undergone, and her Child seems anxious to comfort her.

Here they are, far from home in Egypt. Is Joseph his own boss, self employed as he had been in Nazareth, or is he out all day, at the beck and call of an employer, who might expect him to work extra at short notice? Does Mary sew or launder to help make ends meet in the big city?

At any point after she said those words, Mary’s life will have had problems. There were many more difficult years after the Holy Family returned to Galilee; if Mary thought her troubles were over, they had only just begun.

Most of her appearances in the Gospels are challenging. Even heartbreaking. She was not mentioned on the day the mob tried to throw Jesus off a cliff near Nazareth, but she must have been there. And so it went on until Good Friday.

Thy will be done: giving birth in the stable probably also meant Mary didn’t have her little home-made layette with her. All her preparations apparently wasted; no doubt some other family  benefited, but she and Joseph had to start from scratch: that gold the Wise Man brought must have come in useful!

Thy will be done: it will be, but it probably won’t be done smoothly!

More from Simon soon!

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17 December: Looking up.

francis stargazing

One of our friends urged me to share my experience of Assisi in September. Well, it will filter through as the weeks go by. This reflection is based on an extraordinary statue of Francis at the Hermitages where he and his and companions lived in caves in the rock face – caves that have since been enhanced, over the years, with walls and windows and more or less even stairways. But it was very much the outdoor life when Francis came here.

The hermitage was difficult to get to, a stiff uphill walk on an uneven track even to this day. The wooded hillside around it is a sanctuary, and certainly respected as a quiet place when we were there. And here we found Francis, lying on the rocky ground, looking skywards. I forget whether he was watching stars or clouds.

Not long ago I had a few hours with my new grandson, who was just getting used to having eyes; he was fascinated by the passing clouds, and somehow conveyed to me that he wanted to go outside and watch them without the intermediary of a window. So we went outside and his eyes opened ever wider.

Let’s pray for the grace to become as a little child and open our eyes to God’s beauty, even where humans have tried to tame it to suit our ideas rather than his. And let’s look out every day for the coming week: there will be a bright new shining star of some sort that will shine a light on our pilgrimage towards the Manger:

Laudato Si!

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December 15: A Dedicated Follower of . . .

j baptist venice 1

Last month Venice was a city with both feet in the water, and not for the first time. So perhaps I should not have been surprised to come across so many images of the Advent Saint, John the Baptist, This one is on a tomb monument. A well-dressed young prophet, his camel skin tailored to display a well-turned pair of legs; his coiffure and beard would win praise from today’s London fashionistas.

Coming from an influential priestly family, John could have become a leader of fashionable society in 1st Century Jerusalem. But he seems to have tasted the world of influence and power, finding it thin and bitter. instead he ran away to the desert to find himself and to find God.

That was the result of his flight from the bright city lights, but perhaps when he ran away it was just to escape the life that apparently had been laid down for him: to serve as priest in the Temple according to the rota, while back home, working his allotment to feed his family; meanwhile tight-roping between encouraging the People of God and placating the Romans. Would you blame him for running away?

But then he found himself running to someone. God was in the desert, as Moses discovered in the burning bush. And Gods light shone in him, and people were attracted to him, though his camel skin coat was probably less well tailored than this one here!

Let’s keep in our hearts and prayers those people who find their lives bitter, whose happiness is fragile, who might be tempted towards the desert place from which there is no return. Let us pray that someone may come alongside them when most needed, even if it be you or me.

And let us remember those who do this all the time: Emergency Services, Samaritans, Street Pastors, the Beachy Head Wardens, and so many more.

Lord in your great mercy, hear our prayer.

mercy.carving. (328x640)

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2 December: ‘What comes after the winter snows?’

snowgapa

Just looking at this photograph, I can feel the cold; the crisp, clear cold of the Alpine winter I enjoyed in my youth. We may well not see a flake this winter down in Kent, but we ca expect some cold, wet, ‘let’s stay indoors’ days.

Time to sit in the warm and be grateful for it, not taking it for granted. The sentence I quoted above invites us to such reflection, for it reads in full:

Autumn can be a powerful time of reflection about life, transition, change, death, and what comes after the winter snows of our Earthly journey’s end.

Well, when I read Fr James Kurzynski’s article back in October I had already slotted posts for every day that could count as officially autumnal, but it seemed just as appropriate to Advent, so I’m sharing it now. Follow the link to Fr James’s back yard. He was stargazing, not looking for the Star of Bethlehem, but still found wonder, light and burning beauty in the skies and in his soul.

A bit cold in the Northern hemisphere for lying out on the grass, but telescope or no telescope, even five minutes stargazing in a city garden brings a reminder of the wonders of ‘our galactic home’.

francis stargazing

Saint Francis did not have a telescope but he did have a family; we read about his renunciation of their privileged way of life tomorrow. That decision enabled him to lie down on Sister Earth anf admire the heavens!

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