Advent message from Archbishop Longley

 

Archbishop Longley

Archbishop Longley

Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Brimingham, shares his reflection on the meaning of Advent

This Thursday is the shortest and the darkest day of the year. On the twenty-first of December, at Evening Prayer, the Church calls upon our Lord in these words: O Oriens – O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice: O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. In this final week before Christmas we might ask: what does the dawning light of Christ enable us to see more clearly in our own lives and in the world around us?

 

Sun of justice

O Rising Sun,
you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice.
O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

The Advent antiphon gives us a clue where it addresses Our Lord as the sun of justice. The Prophet Isaiah spells it out for us when he describes the work of the Messiah. He has been sent to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison. Christ, the light of the world, fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah through his ministry of healing and forgiving, giving us all a glimpse and a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

 

We view the world in a new way through the light of Christ and we learn to have a deeper appreciation for the gift of creation. Two years ago Pope Francis emphasised this in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ when he said: What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?

Passion fruit

What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?

The Holy Father urges us never to forget the intimate relationship between the fragility of the planet and the plight of the poor, echoing the compassion of the Messiah: He has sent me to bring good news to the poor. They are the ones who suffer most from the way our earth has been mistreated and exploited.

Pope Francis also says that we need to listen both to the cries of creation and to the cries of the poor. When we do so we undergo what he calls an ecological conversion. The Holy Father encourages us to live more simply, more sustainably and more in solidarity with the poor. He invites us to make our choices based on a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters – including future generations.

Advent Rohingya

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

I would ask you, if you have not already done so, to look carefully at Pope Francis’ encyclical. Perhaps it could be the basis for a study group in your parish during next Lent. Encouraged by Laudato Si’ you may wish to consider becoming a LiveSimply parish next year, using the scheme prepared by CAFOD. In these and other ways we can respond to the encouragement of St Paul in today’s Second Reading: Be happy at all times; pray constantly; for all things give thanks to God.

May the Son of God fill you with joy this Advent as you prepare to celebrate his birth. May you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This reflection has been edited. You can find the full text here

How can we be hopeful in this season of hope?

Jeremy Cain, Community Particiation Coordinator for Hallam diocese, is shivering in Middlesbrough today.

Snow in Middlesbrough

Even Middlesbrough looks nice in the snow! The view from our Volunteer Centre window.

It’s cold out today. You may have noticed. I’m in Middlesbrough and, whilst the view is pretty good, my toes have yet to thaw out from the journey in. Maybe I’m getting old but it’s definitely not T-shirt and shorts weather.

It does feel Christmassy though and anyone who’s dreaming of a white one this morning must be feeling pretty optimistic. But it’s still two weeks to Christmas and, given the glorious unpredictability of our weather, it’ll probably be a balmy fifteen degrees by then. At least my toes hope so.

Desert island

Christmas 2017. What are the odds?

Even so, I’m trying not to think about this too much; it’s still Advent and I’m making the effort to take one day at a time, live in the moment and enjoy what the season has to offer. And I’m trying to feel hopeful because it is, after all, the season of hope.

But it’s not so easy. My life is pretty good right now and I’ve no reason to think that this won’t continue, but when I look a bit further, and particularly towards the parts of the world where CAFOD works, things are a lot less rosy. People are struggling in situations where hope seems to be misplaced optimism. Yet listen to this:

“The journey was very difficult, but when I arrived here it felt like I had been reborn.”

Mohammed

Mohammed, fleeing from the war in Afghanistan.

This from a man who had to flee his home in Iran, with his wife and their baby, leaving his whole life behind. Yet now he has been offered shelter in a Greek refugee hostel he can begin to see a future for himself once more. If that’s not a statement of hope, I don’t know what is.

You can find his story, and many others like it, on our online Advent calendar. It’s a great way to remind ourselves what our faith teaches us about hope. As Tomas Merton says, “The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.”

 

Welcome to Advent

Jeremy Cain, Community Participation Coordinator for Hallam diocese, reflects on a season of challenge and beauty.

No ChristmasThere were lots of people who thought our last Parish Priest was a bit of a misery- parishioners would shake their heads in sorrow whilst primary school teachers would tear their hair out in despair. The problem? He wouldn’t do Christmas during Advent. No Christmas dinners, no Christmas parties, not even Carols by Candlelight, a long-cherished parish tradition.

Increasingly, I find myself agreeing with him. The pub at the top of our road booked up for Christmas dinner sometime in September, whilst a few doors down there’s a house that’s been displaying an electronic countdown to Christmas from mid-October. If it wasn’t for my fear of CCTV and the criminal justice system, I would have stolen it by now.

Advent candles

A light in the darkness

Aside from everything else, the problem is that we’re missing out. When we jump over Advent and get straight into Christmas, we lose the opportunity to experience a season of beauty and meaning. We are culturally conditioned to be impatient, but waiting can bring us to a deeper sense of joy and reveal things that otherwise would be missed.

Our current parish priest is a bit different. He loves his parties and books Santa in for the kids every year, but he’s takes Advent seriously too. In his homily yesterday, he urged us to enter into it as a season of prayer, to renew our lines of communication with the Lord and dream of a world that should be a better place. Isn’t that the meaning of the Incarnation? Shouldn’t “God is with us” be a good thing?

CAFOD ‘s answer is an emphatic yes- making the world a better place is exactly what we are about. So Advent is a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on the parts of the world where the answer appears to be no.

Razir

“I have nothing now,” says Razir, a refugee from Syria

The Advent Calendar on our website offers a helpful way to do this.Today’s reflection focuses on Razir, a Syrian woman who fled to Lebanon because of the war, and her experience in the light of the Old Testament promise that nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war (Isaiah 2: 1-5). It makes for uncomfortable reading, yet our faith always offers us hope and, by putting our faith into action, we can also offer hope to Razir.

Advent looks to the coming of the light even whilst we still live in darkness. Yet, if we take the time to look, we can see God present in the darkest of places right now, calling us quietly to bring about his kingdom

Have a happy Advent!