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?
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?
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.
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.