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Advent 2010

Reflections for each Sunday of Advent

by Sr. Anna Burke

Fourth Sunday of Advent - 19th December 2010

Things are never as they seem! Joseph learned that! He also learned to listen to the other voice and to get the whole picture. Joseph’s capacity for intellectual freedom saved the day! His depth of vision gives us courage and confidence to revisit how stories are told and heard, that we may bring forth new life. As we set out for Bethlehem in 2010 we hear Joseph’s ‘Why not?’ to the dream of God’s heart in human flesh. Let us go over to Bethlehem and see.

On the road the people are whispering with the intensity of breaking news. There are rumours of dreams and visions and moving stars, from houses, hillsides and sheds. The news is spreading along the route and the whole world seems to be caught up in the great annunciation. The Caesars are silenced at their palace windows for a child born in David’s city, has taken the name ‘Saviour.’ He is nestling in the breath of the ox and the ass. O Rising Sun! opening the road to Bethlehem, God has remembered.

There are many people on the road to Bethlehem today. Zechariah is struggling with the silence of transition time and Elizabeth is carrying a pitcher of water for Mary. There are shepherds joining the main group from the hillsides. This is very strange indeed. Rabbinic sources have repeatedly told us of the inferiority of the shepherd classes. So why are they taking their place on the road? Someone said that they were just following their hearts. We also notice strangers on camel back, emerging at the horizon, who are said to be kings, following the wisdom of the ancient way. There is no place for kings in Bethlehem so this is either a false rumour or a change in the social order.

As the procession nears the town of Bethlehem the sound of angel voices penetrates the waiting time and the night gives way to the glory of God. The song is a song of peace. We are being lifted up out of the crumbling systems of lost perspectives into the freedom of the manger. Joseph is vindicated. Mary is raised up. History has a purpose and time is eternal. The rainbow and the cloud enshrine the victory of love. This is an unrepeatable moment where heaven and earth bow down in wonder as heart speaks to heart. The breath of animal and human is one, as the child is handed over for the repair of the world. O come, let us adore. Venite Adoremus.

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Third Sunday of Advent - 12th December 2010

Do not be afraid! What you are longing for will be born in the waiting place. Hearts that are faint will find their passion and trembling knees will make it across the Jordan valley, through the steep ascent and into the cattle shed. Do not be afraid! It is the hour of dawn. Eyes will see into the heart of things and ears will pick up the sound of the waiting stars. The voices that went silent in the darkness will join the music of the night. There will be dancing on the hillside and heaven and earth will celebrate joy. Do not be afraid!

I am the one who is to come! I was with God in the beginning when the empty space began to fill and the great lights lit up the mystery. I offered myself at the beginning to mark the map of history with the blood of an eternal covenant. It was a great and human love that linked my life to yours in the soil of the earth. The prophets and prophetesses saw the signs of the time and their cries went out to the whole world directing the human migration to the rising sun. In your Advent time of increased capacity and globalization of secularism, I still come with joy. Do not be afraid!

Tell John not to be afraid! I am in the signs, reminding you of the possibilities and distortions of love. These signs are marking the map of time causing questions, giving choices. Everywhere people are living again and freedom is the evidence that I come. With the compassion of God I am opening new frontiers in words, attitudes and relationships. The creeds of perfection are discovering a new perspective and the people of holiness are trembling with release. It is the hour of joy. Do not be afraid!

Tell the disciples not to be afraid! The sign is within them. It is slowing the airbus to a halt and putting speed limits on the front runners. It is pointing the share-holders to the feeding station and calling the poor people to wells of living water. The sign-language is for the learner, for the one who wants to begin. The blind will see shapes of new temples; the deaf will hear sounds of new policies and all people will experience the joy of release. Do not be afraid!

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Second Sunday of Advent - 5th December 2010

Everything is different now. The language is softer and the perspective is deeper. The old dogmas are flawed and even justice itself has a new measurement. The survival of the fittest is no longer the natural order as the power struggle of Eden has nothing left to play for, and enmity has lost its purpose.

In Isaiah’s time as in our time a sense of desperation hovered in the land and only the reputation of a just and loving God would cause the world to listen again. The prophet recognised that the very stumps of the days of violence would provide the soil of restoration and the shattered remnants of destructive powers would tell their stories. Restoration, as Isaiah saw it, was a question of equity. Both the political and natural worlds would have to yield to the rights of the powerless. A reordering of minds and hearts would provide a new interpretation of structure and status and strength. The normal would be abnormal and the monuments would cease to remember. As the present order reached its demise the restoration of a just order would be fulfilled.

The voice is crying in the wilderness, telling it like it is!

The stump brings us back to the beginning to start the new foundation where the canon of community is coded in the language of liberation, where harmony is in the opened space and where the wolf and the lamb live and let live. This is the place of God’s presence where stillness is the absence of fear and where peace is the experience of tenderness. As the wolf and the lamb lie down together in you, in me, in all creation we see that the new beginning is entrusted with justice, integrity and faithfulness that all creation may be filled with the fullness of God as the waters cover the seas.

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First Sunday of Advent - 28th November 2010

The speed of Advent is standing still. We are fixed with wonder. The bare landscape is throbbing with mystery and the rain clouds are moving eastward. As we scan the distance for a sign of movement we see the shape of light for we are standing at the edge of dawn.

The prophet Isaiah has marked this stopping place with metaphors from the natural world which call humanity to expectation. The mountain of God, touching earth, reaching heaven, is linking all time in the birth of a Messiah. In Advent we stand still at that point where time and eternity are as one. All creation is yearning for the moment of link-up and the nations are a stream of hope flowing to the mountain of God.

The anticipation of the coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament was in terms of release from bondage, from the tyranny of systemic oppression, enshrined in empire and in institution. The people waited in exile for an action of God to restore what was derelict and the prophets spoke of expectation. It was a message pulsating with the promise of release and in the expectation, History stood still and the people turned around. Before their very eyes the desert rocks became a highway and the voices of war stopped to listen. They were going home.

Like the people Israel we all have a turning point. There is a time to go home, to ourselves, to a neighbour, to a friend, to the family, to living again. We who have sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept for Zion, have learned from the silence of separation. Advent time offers us a way out of the wilderness, to remember again, to restore the connection, to live the dream.

The standing time where expectation intensifies and swells is the changing time. As the people of South Africa and more recently the people of Burma, have learned, the taste of freedom becomes a fire in the stilled heart and those who wait in darkness catch the indestructibility of the sunrise. The expectation of the promise holds us together until the night becomes the day. We must not, we will not, miss the standing still time.

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The Vine - Sr. Monica Mohally

In winter sunshine, I stood within the large glasshouse which stands intact, hidden behind the lovely convent, vacated just one year previously.

I was surprised and awed to see a wonderful, healthy vine. Its leaves, burnished brown, yellow and golden, had not yet fallen from the vine. It looked like a Botticelli painting, so perfect was the setting at that moment. Hidden in random spots were bunches of dark, purple grapes, which provided not only an enchanting contrast to the leaves, but exotic memories of sunshine.........

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An Evening Visit - Sr. Rita Duignan

It was a cold December evening and my meeting was due to begin at six o’clock. In order to avoid the rush hour traffic, I arrived in the busy shopping town an hour earlier. Finding a little coffee shop, I had my usual cup of tea, and then, nicely relaxed, I set out to visit the church, which was adjacent to where the meeting was to be held.

It was a big church but it felt warm and I was glad of the shelter and the familiar sense of welcome. At that time of evening, it was in semi-darkness, with only one light at the back and the gentle flicker from the candelabra at the shrine. I sat up near the front and probably closed my eyes as I settled down to pray. I started to allow the names of people for whom I wanted to pray, to come to my mind. I was only a brief time in this quietness, when a whole orchestra of sounds reached me as people came in to the church to pray...........

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