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And God said…

Welcome to the Church’s Year of the Word! This is how the Bible begins in Genesis 1:1-3…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was a formless void,
there was darkness over the deep,
and God’s spirit hovered over the water.

God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light.
“God said” That means God spoke light into existence – and the earth and universe and all they contain – and us. And what do we use to speak? Words, of course!
As we begin Advent, the start of a new Christian year – this time a special Year of the Word – we remember and celebrate the fact that God’s Word has been active since the very beginning. In this season we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, and that is about the Word too, the Word made flesh. St John puts it beautifully in the first chapter of his Gospel (John 1:1-5,14).

In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men,

a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower

The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Welcome to the Year of the Word, when we are invited to listen, learn and live God’s holy Word.

Christ the King

Malcolm Guite wrote “This Sunday is the last in the cycle of the Christian year, which ends with the feast of Christ the King, and next Sunday we begin our journey through time to eternity once more, with the first Sunday of Advent. We might expect the Feast of Christ the King to end the year with climactic images of Christ enthroned in Glory, seated high above all rule and authority, one before whom every knee shall bow, and of course those are powerful and important images, images of our humanity brought by him to the throne of the Heavens.”

Yet the Gospel speaks of Calvary, of the taunts of the authorities, the soldiers and the criminal, and the replies of Jesus. Three years ago we first printed Malcolm Guite’s sonnet for the Feast. Here it is again…

Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty, Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows, Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’.

He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
And seek a welcome from the world he made, We see him only as a threat, a danger,
He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead.

And if he should fall sick then we take care That he does not infect our private health, We lock him in the prisons of our fear
Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.

But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing The praises of our hidden Lord and King.

From Malcolm Guite ‘Sounding the Seasons’ published by Canterbury Press.

Fr Daniel O’Leary on November

As Autumn takes hold, the mood, the traditions, even the weather of the month of November often turn our thoughts to those whom we have lost. But death need not mean the loss of meaning – love and loss are forever inextricably linked. It is the month of All Saints and All Souls and when memories that bless and burn come back to haunt us. We sense anew the absence of the loves of our lives. But by now we have learned that love and loss go together. If you love, you are sure to suffer; if you do not love, you will suffer even more. But we cannot live without love and loss. And the more we love people and things, and the more attached we are to our dreams and hopes, the more deeply we will feel their loss. The impact of loss can suddenly ambush you, that aching sense of someone’s absence brought on by a spring morning, a summer pathway, an autumn sky, an empty chair, the first Christmas carol you must listen to alone. Loving someone wraps invisible blankets of blessing around both people.

We can discern no hidden grace in grief and loss. We are like a seed buried in the darkness, alone and waiting. It is only when the time is right, when the heart is ready, that loss, like a midwife, brings something very special and undreamt of into the emptiness of our lives. The moment of a new and slowly emerging reality will only come when we trust the possibility of such a resurrection, and open ourselves to it. Our life, we discover, has not lost its meaning. Something in our soul forever senses possibility. Loss is like a teacher. Its value lies in the space it makes for something new to grow. Where the loss is caused by the death of a dearly loved friend or relation, that sense of loss may now begin to open the slow door to another way of being with that person. Unrestricted by time and place, a new intimacy becomes possible.

There is a nourishing paradox in the way theologian, Karl Rahner, reflects on the unfilled gap. “There is no such thing in either the world or the heart as a vacuum,” he said, “And wherever space is really left by death, by renunciation, by parting, by apparent emptiness, provided that the emptiness is not filled by the world, or activity, or noise, or the deadly grief of the world – there is God.”

Those who have loved and lost, and grown through it all, have already tasted death and resurrection. They have followed their passion, they have risked for love; they have been devastated by loss. And because they loved and trusted life once, the final death will never be a fearful stranger.

Edited from “Learning Heart: Weekly Reflections