Since September, retail stores and supermarkets have been pushing Christmas. For the last few weeks at the Indooroopilly shopping centre there has been children queuing up for a photo with Santa – seven weeks before Christmas Day! Now I do not wish to be a killjoy, but if we are not careful, the concept of spiritually preparing for the Nativity of our Lord (or anything for that matter) is gone. Advent is the season of preparation for that great festival of the Incarnation. I know we still must be ready for Christmas, with Christmas cards and presents, and where Christmas dinner will be held etc, etc. However, on Sundays during Advent we keep that season, so that we enter fully into the incredible mystery of the greatness of Who It Is that is born for us. If Christmas is only about a cute baby born to a nice Jewish mum, then we have lost the plot – and it is why we need Advent. The Gospel reading for this Advent Sunday is about staying awake, being ready for the end of time, judgement, and the coming of the Lord. Not the sort of thing for Christmas cards! But it reminds us that the cute baby at Nazareth is the Judge, the Lord, and our Master. He is Christ our God, Saviour, and High Priest, which is not on display in in shopping centres. Advent is the season that shapes our understanding of Whom It Is that we welcome on Christmas Day. The Collect for the day sum this all up:
Today we finish our liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the Universal King. So, what is it that we are celebrating today? To gain an understanding of Christ’s kingship we need to consider the Old Testament and see the its beginnings. We discover, that originally, there was to be no king and Samuel the prophet was against the request for one (read 1 Samuel 8). Samuel thought the appeal for one was an act of rebellion, as the God of Israel was their true king, who governed his flock through the Covenant with the guidance of the prophets. The rebellion was to reject this kind of leadership and become like the nations around them and have a king who would also lead them into battle.
To the Prophet Samuel’s surprise, after he had vigorously opposed the monarchy, God agrees to the people’s demands. The first choice was Saul, which was not a great success. It was in the second choice of David that God gives a new form to kingship. Yet, great as David was, he had some serious dark deeds to his record. He was a great sinner, yet he was also a serious penitent. David became a sort of benchmark of what a Messiah/Christ/King should be. In the sense, God writes clear and straight through the crooked lines of David’s sins (and our mistakes and failings as well). Israel had a king, but only in the understanding that the true and eternal king is always God. Indeed, the coronation service for the kings was a kind of adoption by God of the prince as His Anointed King/Messiah.
Now in Jesus, the son of a carpenter, we see the two ideas coming together. We do indeed have a royal descendant of David (a royal family that had hit hard times and reduced to insignificance), yet through his appalling death and victorious resurrection, he is manifested as God in our humanity. The word for this is ‘consubstantial’ – sharing the same substance as us. So, Christ is at one with his Father and at the same time one with us. That is a kind of bridge. The Latin word for a priest is a bridge maker (pontifex in the Latin)”. Our bridge, Jesus Christ, is our King, Lord, Eternal High Priest, Mediator and Saviour – and that is a great job description.
As a priest, that has for decades used the modern form of the Mass, I wish to state what are the benefits of the traditional form we use at Morningside
- A clearer statement that the Mass is the sacred gift and work of Christ, and of Him being our Lord, Eternal High Priest, and Mediator.
- The traditional form of the Mass provides, for many, a secure bridge between corporate worship and provides space for personal adoration, prayer and contemplation.
- The prayers of the traditional Mass give a clear and eloquent communication of the doctrines of the Christian faith.
- The traditional form of the Mass unmistakeably focuses on the worship of God as the priority, and not on the activities of the local community. The worship of Mass makes the community – not the other round.
- The long-established form of the Mass is a continuity and a living connection to the Christian liturgy from its earliest days.
- The celebration of the traditional Mass requires and assumes an environment of beauty and adornment, that is an icon and vision of the truth of the worship of the Heavenly Jerusalem, it is to be a source of our joy. The Mass is the connection to our true homeland.
- Last of all, the traditional mass and its language is a link to the culture of the Church – its music and architecture, which also forms a living connection to our English-Australian language and culture.
*For The Mutterings on The Warden’s Wands see the Page dedicated to this: The Why? About the Wardens’ Wands
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor of the Lutheran Church and also a vehement critic of Hitler and Nazism – and that would eventually cause his arrest and death. From prison, he wrote that a Christian must live today as if there were no God. Each person must assume responsibility for the course of their life. Regardless of how radical and brave Bonhoeffer was, the Christian tradition of spirituality suggests the exact opposite of what he proposes – we should act as if God really exists and Christ is true, even if at times he seems absent. In fact, for those whose faith is dim or weak this is the advice that is given and it is called an Act of Faith. One of the great spiritual giants, Saint Teresa of Avila, had decades of not feeling any sense of the presence of God, and yet she lived her life to the reality of revealed truth. She continued to hold onto the revelation Christ given to the whole Church, for she realised that that our personal feelings could betray us. Just because ‘I’ feel Christ is absent does not mean he is. Of course, the thing that Teresa understood is that Christ himself entered into that dark place of nothingness, “My God my God, why have you abandoned me” – which oddly is a prayer addressed to God who had gone missing!
So each of us, regardless of how the world affects us or events and circumstances and our health get us down, we should strive as being subjects to the love that awaits us, and in the knowledge that this love, loves even us. Again, we may not feel it, but we van live in that certainty of truth known and experienced by millions. So in this process we are shaping our hearts and soul. We entrust ourselves to this difficult yet inescapable ‘if there were a God’, in which we will become ever more aware that this statement “if” is the only reality for here and now and into eternity. We will know profoundly and lastingly why Christianity is still necessary today as the genuine good news by which we are redeemed. For God is certainly by our side and with us – even if from time to time we do not feel it or doubt it.