Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
Today we set out together on our annual Advent pilgrimage that will take us to a stable in Bethlehem, to a child resting in a manger of straw. There, like the wise men of old, we will be invited once again to fall to our knees and do him homage.
As we set out on our journey, the Church offers us three images to help us on our way. For a few moments, I would like to share a brief reflection on each of the images offered to us today. The reflections are not my own, but they have helped me to focus on the journey before us. And for this reason I share them with you.
The first image is to be found in the reading from Isaiah. In the scriptures, mountains play a significant part in many of the key events we find there: Moses and the commandments, Jesus and the transfiguration, for example. I love the description of ancient times that mountains were considered to be ‘thin’ places, where you could almost reach out and touch the heavens. In today’s first reading we have Isaiah’s vision of the mountain of the Lord, standing proud above the other mountains and to which there streams all the peoples, called to live in peace. Perhaps a moment to reflect on our relationships to give thanks and build bridges.
Another image the Church puts before us as we set off on our journey is that of light and dark. It is an image that resonates well with those of us who live in this part of the world, as we come to the darkest and often bleakest part of the year. Those who know me well will know that I don’t like short days and long nights! So much so, I have a Redemptorist confrere who makes a reassuring phone call every 21 December to remind me that the long nights are about to get shorter, and the days longer.
However, during Advent, the darkness of the winter months is pierced by the light of the Advent candle we light, week by week, gently reminding us of the one who will come as a light for the world, and light for our darkness.
The third image we are invited to reflect on as we begin our Advent journey together is ‘stay awake and be ready’. The burglar in Jesus’s story made no announcement about his visit, in the same way Jesus often comes to us unannounced and unexpectedly, so we must stay awake and stand ready to recognise him and welcome him when he comes.
So, as we get ready to set out on our Advent journey once more, the Church invites us to reflect on how we can live decent lives, as Paul calls the members of the Church in Rome to do, to hear Isaiah’s call to live in peace with one another and to prepare for the coming of Christ, at Christmas, that we might warmly welcome Him when He comes.
Yours sincerely in Christ, the Redeemer,
+ Ralph Heskett CSsR
Bishop of Hallam