Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – as we face into this last week of Advent!
The principal liturgical seasons of the Church’s year, such as Advent, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, are intended to lead us ever more deeply, in the words of St. Paul, into the mystery that is Christ. By fully participating in the liturgical celebrations of these particular seasons we are drawn year after year ever closer to Him who is the centre of the Church’s worship.
In the Scripture readings of Advent, for example, we are invited to make our own the steadfast hope and earnest yearnings of faithful believers for the promised saviour in the long centuries before Christ. By allowing ourselves to join in spirit these devout souls of long ago, prophets, priests and kings, we too enkindle our own desire for Christ to enter our lives and our world afresh. The celebration of his birthday at Christmas poses again the question: who is this child, where has he come from, what does he mean for me, and for the world?
The apostle Paul on the Fourth Sunday of Advent refers to the promises made by God long before in the Scriptures and which he has now fulfilled, both in the birth of Christ in the line of King David, and in his resurrection from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What an amount of faith and theology is contained in these two statements! The Christ-child lying in the manger is the long promised Son of David, while the universal Church today worships him as her risen Lord. The Advent liturgy intends us to be astonished at such truths. Like the little ones, we adults need to be truly child-like before the scene in the manger.
The Evangelist Matthew was in no doubt that the prophecy of Isaiah, uttered some eight-hundred years before Christ, was in fact referring to him as being the true Emmanuel, God-with-us, born of the Virgin Mary.
The Advent liturgy for the Fourth Sunday of Advent invites us to stop and wonder at the profound mystery of God’s deed in the conception of his Son. We are to muse prayerfully on this mystery, without ever fully understanding it. Let us draw immense consolation that all this has taken place, in the words of the Creed, for our salvation.
The liturgy on Sunday also sets before us the example of the faithful and reliable Joseph. His actions speak far more eloquently than words. He took the pregnant Virgin Mary as his spouse. He was convinced in his heart that such was the divine will, and he would prove to be a sure guardian of the child Jesus and protector of his mother. Perhaps the Advent liturgy on Sunday has that lesson for us. Like Joseph, our lives of faith can be unspectacular, at times seemingly plodding.
The Lord God depended on Joseph and was not disappointed. May Joseph inspire us to stand, wonder, and above all believe at the coming presence of the new-born child, who is none other than Emmanuel, God-with-us.
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster