Holding Fast To Hope

For the December edition of Aurora – the magazine of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, I had the opportunity to ‘come off the bench’ and provide a column for where the Bishop usually writes. This was because the Bishop is recovering from bypass surgery and wasn’t in a position to contribute his usual column. So here it is…

By the time this column appears in Aurora, we will have commenced our annual celebration of the Season of Advent.

Advent is one of those liturgical seasons with which I have an ambivalent relationship. I love that we are preparing for the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and at the ‘end of time’, yet I am not always comfortable at the way in which Advent sometimes gets subsumed into the usual procession of ‘end of year’ events. Not that I begrudge those celebrations – they are the kind of celebrations that allow us to keep forging ahead as human beings – but the liturgist in me sometimes wishes that the end of our civil year didn’t coincide with the end of the calendar year.

Having said that, however, by now, we will have started the traditional marking of the ‘end of the year’, whether that be at school (with the associated ‘graduations’), at work, as a family, or, indeed, as a Church. It is right and proper that we can mark this transition before the arrival of the full height of the Australian summer. These celebrations allow us to look back and reflect as well as forward in the hope of what might be available to us in the new year.

And this is where I can usually reconcile the liturgical Season of Advent with the reality of our civil life. Advent is primarily a season of hope when we look forward to the fulfilment of the promise that is gifted to us in the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas, and to all that flows from the coming of Jesus as ‘one-like-us’. This hope is what keeps me going along the Christian path day in and day out.

It would be all too easy for us to surrender to the gloom that surrounds us as Church, but that is the ‘easy option’. The more profound option, the more Christian option, is about holding fast to the hope that we are celebrating during the Season of Advent and the end of the calendar year. The new year, 2019, holds many possibilities for us as Church – the Plenary Council, our own Diocesan Synod, and the potential for continuing Church reforms at the level of the universal Church – and it is these possibilities that should hold both our attention and our focus as we continue our journey along the Christian path.

May the peace of Christ, our Advent and our Hope, be with you and with your loved ones this Advent and Christmas seasons.