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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Advent IV

Tomorrow's homily from the St Petroc Monastery:


We are now in the last leg of our examination of our lives and resultant repentance during this Advent. Soon we will be celebrating the birth in the cave-house on the road to Bethlehem of God’s Christ and our Saviour, his taking of human form and human nature together with His eternal Divine nature, and His Coming to us here in earth.

As a preparation for that, we have observed the fasting and repentance that is appropriate to the Second Coming of Christ to this earth. During this Advent, we have been more overtly doing what every Orthodox Believer should do all the time: Acting as if the Second Coming of Christ was tomorrow morning. It is very difficult for the busy work-a-day person to keep the mind focused on the Second Coming, one’s own unreadiness to be judged and general unworthiness. The Church however provides for two annual extra-serious seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the
wo annual extra-serious
seasons of reflection and ready-making: The Advent Lent before the Nativity and the Great Lent before the Resurrection.

This Sunday, we pray that justice may be found for the many poor of countries around the world, and that those countries, classes and individuals who enjoy real prosperity will turn and follow our Lord’s admonitions to assist those who are left behind. We should keep in our prayers all those who labour in the poorest areas of the world to bring spiritual and material food and comfort to the many forgotten poor. We pray for the bewildered refugees of Africa. We are supposed to keep our own offences and failings constantly in the forefront of our minds at this penitential season. We must also keep a realistic picture of the vast number of medically, physically and spiritually needy and, using that picture in our minds, we must take intercessory and financial action for we must not keep the gifts of God to ourselves.

The struggle to achieve perfect personal holiness and the struggle to provide for all of the world’s poor and needy are very similar in many respects. We shall probably never achieve personal holiness perfection and we shall probably never provide for every person on this earth. The important thing in both cases is that we put our best effort into the attempt. It is the struggle towards holiness that is the purifying fire. Without God’s help neither goal is possible of achievement. The trouble is, that no matter how often this is repeated by and to us, we never quite manage to shake off our worldly “old man” and we persist at least in part, in trying to achieve the goal from our own resources.

On the personal level this leads to all sorts of failures and problems. On the world level, we continue to believe that this or that form of human government might, if it was done properly, achieve the perfect world - or at least feed a lot of the worst cases. The fact is that it is not possible for so long as humans insist on governing themselves. We personally, and corporately must give the government of ourselves and our world over to God. Unless we do that, we will persist in wading painfully in the mire of our own making. Christ came to tell us of His Way. He made the whole painful and humiliating journey from human birth to human execution for us, that we would see the Way.

Let us reflect on sorrow and prepare for joy.

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