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Today marks our entrance into the season of Advent. It’s the beginning of the Church year, rooted in the notion of hope – faith as hope – faith as a light that outshines the seemingly invincible darkness. In our normal New Years’ Celebrations, we talk of wishes or resolutions, how we want to improve ourselves,. Hope is a notion that is different than a wish or desire for self-improvement.
The book of Hebrews says that Hope is a certainty in the veracity of things that are unseen. The biblical notion of Hope isn’t naïve or happy-go-lucky. It’s rooted in a resilient belief, in a ferocious trust that what we see is neither all that there is nor the way things will always be. Hope is leaning into the reality of God, seeking to glimpse the world, each other, and ourselves, through the eyes of God. It’s in this scope of vision that we encounter the prophetic picture of God’s promised future. Isaiah writes nearly 2,600 years ago when Jerusalem, the capital of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel) is conquered, and their world is over.
It’s from and in these ruins that God speak, that Isaiah sees a word, experiences something that is beyond our senses, that stretches the imagination: this defeated city will become the center of a realm of peace, where now there is famine and desolation God will set a table of abundant and succulent foods and drink, a feast for all peoples.
In Matthew 24, we encounter Jesus admonishing those who put their trust in him to say awake and alert, to not slumber or settle in the lulling darkness of today. He refers to the hope of Noah, who built a huge boat during dry days, trusting that God’s word that the rains would come, would not just come, but that it was what was most real. He then talks of a homeowner who sleeping his way through life thinks that what is will always be.
As the season of Advent begins, the darkness of our days grows. The light is fleeting, the days fly by….it can seem like all of life will be swallowed up in the tenebrous cold of winter. And yet… we know that what is, is not all that there is. In fact at the Winter Solstice, in just a few weeks, the light will overcome the darkness and begin to grow again in the orbit of Earth around the Sun.
Today, much of our culture is divided between wishing to make things great again like they used to be, or resisting what things have become. But our faith in Christ invites us to place our hope in how God is already making the world – a place where weapons or destruction are turned into agricultural tools, where desolation is replaced by a delectable dinner table.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation