From Bishop Erik Varden’s ‘Coram Fratribus’ website. He is addressing an audience of monks in a French abbey, looking at Luke 21:5-19, when the disciples are admiring the temple but Jesus tells them it will all be destroyed. They should rather look to heavenly, eternal realities, manifest in our world of time. The full text is here.
If we lose the habit of considering what is temporal in the light of what is eternal, we shall seek the purpose of our life in view of an horizon that grows ever narrower, full of menacing shadows. We shall be at the mercy of false prophets who manipulate these shadows as puppets to inspire fear and to keep us submitted to the power of their rhetoric. We see this tendency at work often enough in our anxious Europe today. The Christian’s remedy is to raise his eyes serenely in search of a vaster comprehension, animated by hope, remembering that creation doesn’t exist for its own sake, that it indicates a purpose that transcends it.
If we accomplish our earthly pilgrimage in this way, our life will not be any less sweet or precious. On the contrary. Hope will bestow on constrained existence an opening towards eternity. By following this hope, we shall give to others, too, the courage to hope.
The quality which the Gospel proposes to learn to live in this way is perseverance: perseverance in directing our thoughts and acts according to the mind of God; perseverance in listening and patience (the two presuppose one another); perseverance in friendship with Jesus, by which grace will also instil our others friendships, which otherwise might tend towards superficiality, informed by self-love and self-interest.
By building our lives thus on what is true and real, we shall not need to fear the day of the Lord, burning like a furnace. Let fire consume the chaff and withered branches! For the Children of the Kingdom, who live according to the logic of their baptism, the day of the Lord will bring healing in its wings. Let us, then, give ourselves faithfully to our daily tasks, as St Paul would have it, for the good of others and for our delight, but without forgetting that our today points towards God’s tomorrow. Our present condition, even in its moments of ecstasy, is but a noviciate preparing us for a life of eternal abundance. Amen.
In my family there were times when there was a lack of temporal abundance. I have memories of a Christmas when my mother made a Christmas tree of green woollen yarn, stretched over drawing pins on her bedroom wall. From each branch she had hung a sweet, one for each of us for a few days. It was frugal but sweet and precious.
Let us prepare Christmas ‘for the good of others and for our delight.’