Monday, December 5

Advent - words and experience

For advent this year, our parish is using certain word phrases found in the scripture readings.  These phrases are put onto business cards that are handed out to parishioners as well as being scribed on a sign that is attached to the altar.  Last week, the phrase was 'Stay Awake' (from the Gospel), which engendered multiple amusing comments about homiletic style and such. 

This week was 'Make Ready' (from Isaiah) which is echoed in the reading about the coming of John the Baptist. The thrust of the homily was that what we were to make ready for and how that comes about could very well defy our own expectations (as, no doubt, it did Zachariah) and that what God intends quite frequently clashes with our grand designs. Much was also made of talking about the Desert/Wilderness and what that means in the jewish context.  The Wilderness is where the scapegoat is cast out into and where the 'demons' live.  It is the 'beyond' where decent, god-fearing folk never travel.  But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

The first Saturday evening of each month, one of our sister parishes holds a Celtic service and I make sure to put everything aside to go.  They have a wonderful faith community and the liturgy is a very different and quite valid way of worship.  At the conclusion of the mass, each of us were invited to turn to the person beside us, hold their face in our hands and, look into their eyes, saying (among other things) 'you are the face of Christ'.  Though I cognitively recognized what was going on, Dad had different plans, as I was to find out later in the evening. 

A friend of mine invited me out later that evening, as part of the 'get the hermit out of his cave' program.  OK, fine.  So we went to a club (which I don't do) and more specifically, a gay bar (which I've never done) that was holding some big shindig, so all these people he knew were going to be there (do you smell a setup, cause I sorta did).  I have a strong impression of precisely who I am and am not interested in and the sort of person who frequents 'those places' doesn't fall into that impression.  After all, it's one of 'those places', you know.  I'm one of those people who tend to observe rather than actively participate and, being in an unfamiliar and slightly uncomfortable setting, that's what I did.  The more I watched, the more my understanding and impressions changed, dropping judgments and preconceptions.  Then, it all clicked. 

The realisation that what I have read and said in the past became what I saw.  The Christ within, the Christ in all - a disparate group of individuals suddenly visualized as a multi-locational unified entity and, for a shining moment, that inner Divine was revealed to me. I must admit I was intermittently giggling for most of the rest of the evening.  Then, the next morning, I hear the homily mentioned at the first, about the Wilderness and making ready and how God's plans are often very much not what we expect.

There, in the 21st century Christian wilderness, the face of Christ.  Thanks be to God.

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