Last week the St Andrew’s Foundation held its annual Advent Retreat, which this year was led by the wonderful Fr Ed Hone CSsR, Dean of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. Fr Ed invited us to reflect on Advent as a time of ‘Watching, Waiting and Hoping – together in Faith’ in which we await the coming of Our Lord. Though Advent is often seen as a time to prepare for Christmas, Fr Ed reminded us that Advent is also a time to look towards the future; indeed, the very word ‘Advent’ is derived from the Lord’s Prayer in which we proclaim ‘Adveniat regnum tuum’, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. It is a time in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of God’s Kingdom, and trust in the promises that God has made to us that all will be restored to Him.
Fr Ed emphasized how the Mass is an ‘Advent event’ and one that reminds us that we are an ‘Advent people’. At the very heart of the Mass is the concept of communion with God, but also with the angels and saints, and reconciliation with each other. Within the Mass we journey through the past, in what has already been accomplished, into the present, in which we continue to receive and participate in the Body of Christ, and into the future, in which we journey in hope towards the coming of the Kingdom. We are reminded that throughout this journey we have always been called, and always will be called, to be the people of God, and that Christ’s presence among us is one that is enabling in that it calls us forward towards God. The very words of the Mass remind us of this as we state that ‘We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again’. As we pray ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts’, taken from the Prophecy of Isaiah, we join in the eternal prayers of Heaven. This is a moment in which the Earth is lifted up towards Heaven and in which Heaven comes down towards the Earth to join in this hymn of praise, in which we are given a foretaste of the future. As Fr Ed cleverly put it, it is as if we are opening a sunroof in our churches to view the heavenly liturgy.
Though we could not join together physically in our retreat this year, Fr Ed reminded us of the unity and communion which we find in God. In a Church that emphasizes our communion with the angels and saints, our brothers and sisters across the globe, the living and the dead, a spirit of community in the Body of Christ is of great comfort when we are physically distanced. Though these might be dark times for many of us, in which we are separated from our loved ones, it is good to remind ourselves that there is always a beacon of hope as we look forwards towards the light in the coming of Christ in which nothing is lost but all is redeemed.
We would like to thank Fr Ed for leading us in reflection and everyone who was able to participate. We would love to hear from you about the ways in which you have been marking this festive period and wish you all a blessed Advent.