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Advent, Hope & Persistence 29 November 2016

Posted by Dr Moose in Advent, Faith, Life, Ponderings.
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It’s almost a perfect example of irony: I’m only on Day 3 of trying to be disciplined and blog through Advent and I’m already struggling for words. Perhaps, as the top of the building outside my window is painted bronze in the light of the setting sun, it’s not a lack of words, but a lack of faith in my ability to write something suitable that’s the problem. Herein, of course, is the classic problem for the blogger: to write that which is real, as opposed to that which will merely please, stimulate, or engage. Who, or what, is the blog for?

mp-with-mugOne course of action I resolved to follow after I returned from my sabbatical over the summer (remember that?) was to make Morning Prayer something that was in the Chaplaincy publicity. As much as I’d appreciate company it’s ultimately a stand-alone, or solo, endeavour. It’s about me consciously putting aside time and space to praise, read, reflect and pray in the hope and expectation that I will be somehow, however intangibly, fed or sustained along the way (and not just by the accompanying coffee!). It’s an expected practice for an ordained minister in the Church of England, one that I must confess I’ve been more faithful in in some years and places than in others, and that feels more fruitful at some times than others.
The other primarily liturgical, or more correctly priestly, action I resolved to do was to regularly offer a service of Holy Communion, which once again features in the publicity we produce. I have no chapel, but the space is flexible enough. Every Tuesday lunchtime during the term time (under normal circumstances) one half of the larger Prayer/Quiet Room is transformed. Open space receives chairs, and a cupboard transforms to an altar (or, more properly in my strand of Anglicanism, a holy table). Unlike Morning Prayer though, this is different. It’s not something for me, but something for the believing community, something for, and about, us. The bread to be broken and shared, the wine to be poured and shared, both full of symbolism & meaning rooted in the Jesus re-interpretation of the Jewish Passover meal that the Church knows as The Last Supper.

communionAnd unfailingly, every week, no-one shows up. The service runs through the various components, including confession, reading scripture and prayers, before skipping to a closing prayer and ending 10-15 minutes after it began. The bread remains unbroken (until after I’ve tidied away, when it becomes my lunch!) and the wine unpoured. Why, I ask myself, did I persist? In fact why did I resolve this weekly exercise when for the last two years or so I did it fortnightly or monthly, still to no avail?

The answer is because it’s important. It’s not for me, or about me. It’s what I do, among other things, as a priest. Knowing how student timetables and time-keeping run I can’t advertise and then not complete. Its not for me, but for others. If someone is intent, but running late, it’s beholden on me to do a Magnus Magnusson (“I’ve started so I’ll finish”) and to do what I can, and a little intercessory prayer for the university, and then not consecrate the bread and wine, but I can’t not do it.

Of course, there’s a valuable secondary reason too. It acts as a marker, and physical reminder that the Prayer/Quiet rooms are for the good of all, not just the primary users, our Muslim students and staff, but everyone. I hear their prayers; it does no harm for them to hear mine.

Not really any different from the starting question about the reason for blogging, the reason for the chaplain. Advent, that season of Hope, with a dash of Persistence, as we tread the road to Christ’s coming, gives me another incarnate reminder of what I do, and why?

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