Godtalk: What's Advent for?
Cosmologists tell us that although we see only 2 per cent of the universe, scientists ‘know’ by inference that the other 98 per cent must be there. It’s just that it’s hidden behind dark matter and black holes. This might be helpful for thinking about Advent.
This season should make us aware that we know very little about God. What we do know, even the events of Christ’s first coming, are only a fraction of what is still to be discovered. In St Paul’s words, eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
The particular character of the season is therefore that of a vigil. It’s a time for trying to discern, from what we do know from God’s coming in the flesh, what the implications are for the actions of God as yet unobservable.
The longing for redemption characterises the whole created world. While time lasts there will be this inexpressible need for completion in God, patterned into the very nature of the cosmos, hinted at in the sheer scale of the universe.
To speak of such a scale of longing is to recognise that faith, and not experience, is what allows us to see beyond the dark matter of sin, and the black hole which is suffering and death; faith in a God who has still to come to complete the world of human experience.
The Church invites us to live this season, and to feel this need for salvation (from our limitations), revealed in Christ and still to come. Liturgical seasons are to remind us that the life of faith, the supernatural life absorbs the calendar and calculations of the astronomer.
Missing Spring or Autumn would upset the balance of the natural world. Similarly, if our spiritual seasons are out of kilter, the ground will not be prepared for what, or rather who, is to come.
Peter Knott SJ