Dearest parishioners and friends,
A new liturgical year is upon us! Prepared by the Feast of Christ the King last Sunday, we turn the eyes of our hearts to the advent of Christ, both the first and the second, the more important of which is, of course, the second advent, the Second Coming.
In our first reading for this First Sunday of Advent I (from Jeremiah 33), we hear: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” The Second Coming is about this “full fulfilment”, about the consummation of all things in love, about Jesus definitely introducing us into the mystery of God: our purpose, our home, our life eternal. If so, then our hope is “eschatological” in nature. Eskhatos is the Greek term for "last or uttermost”. We are, if you will, a “people of the uttermost”, the uttermost in divine love, which must transform all things, most especially our hearts. At every Mass, there is an expression of eschatological hope in such transformation: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”.
Advent prepares us for Christmas, when we celebrate the Word made flesh, Jesus. The imagery we most often have is that of the chid Jesus in the manger—as should be the case! But, Jesus will come again. Somewhere in our minds (and hearts!) ought also to be the image in today’s gospel—which is more than an image: “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” (Luke 21). As we prepare first in prayer—and formation and outreach opportunities, (and then, of course, in shopping and decorating and baking…and and!) for Christmas, may our hearts be turned to the Word made flesh, Who indwells us, eschatologically hopeful that He will come again. As we indeed profess each Sunday in the words of the Nicene Creed (325): “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end”.
As a new liturgical year is upon us, you will notice three liturgical adjustments, which we announced a couple of weeks ago at our coffee hour Q&A. They are the fruit of many conversations with acolytes and staff, reflection and prayer, and their purpose is to make our liturgy more prayerful. Firstly, sufficient number of acolytes permitting, we will be using incense at Mass. As the psalmist prays in Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you.” Secondly, so to maintain a more prayerful flow to our liturgy, the “welcome and announcements” will take place at the end of Mass, just after the Post-Communion Thanksgiving. Thirdly, as the Church asks her members to do, we will be praying the Prayers of the People between the Nicene Creed and the Confession. These three—actuating our faith, welcoming into our hearts the concerns of our Brothers and Sisters and together offering them, asking for forgiveness—in a sense, form an organic whole, preparing us to approach the altar of our Lord, worthily, to celebrate Holy Communion.
Blessed Advent! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
Yours in Christ,
Dearest parishioners and friends,
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, a point of culmination, bringing our liturgical year to a close, preparing us to begin a new liturgical year, awakening in us eschatological (Second Coming) hope.
At our parish Vestry* meetings, we begin withLectio Divina ("Divine Reading"), prayerful reading of Scripture with a view to divine intimacy. We typically read the upcoming Sunday gospel. In doing so this past week, one person commented on how, nowadays, in our society, the reality of kings perhaps does not resonate much. This is true, and so we do well to ponder beyond our political experience, to consider some of the benevolent kings of history. Additionally, we do well to bear in mind the other metaphors that Jesus uses to reveal Himself: light, bread, way, life, door, shepherd, etc. These shed light as we try to understand Jesus as king, as try to understand Jesus' kingship.
The kingship of Jesus is indeed different from all other kingships. Jesus reigns from within. The kingships of this world are largely kingships of power. Some, on a good day, are kingships of service. The kingship Jesus is a kingship of love-powerful love, but love. Any power in his reign (and there is power, for he is all-powerful)is at the service of love. The kingdom of God is Jesus navigating and awakening the human heart.
What is Jesus' purpose as king, some may ask? His purpose is to love us into the mystery of God. And, although we would advise him otherwise, he allows bad and sad things, for this greater good. As hard as it is to fathom at times,he reigns even in our brokenness. How hopeful and liberating to know and to be granted to experience, on our personal journeys, and on our communal journey here at Ascension and Saint Agnes, where there is sadness over the death of Fr. Lane, and where there is concern and hope for our future. In the light of Jesus as our king, it is the latter, hope, that emerges as the final note.
When we pray, "Thy kingdom come",we give him permission to reign in our hearts, in our broken hearts, knowing, in faith, how awesome a king we have. Even when do not realize it, He is navigating and awakening our hearts, loving us into the mystery of God. Something amazing is happening deep insideus. If only we trust, and yield in love. We have every reason to hope, not to be discouraged. His kingdom comes. And "His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away." (Daniel 7:14)
Dearest parishioners and friends,
In this Sunday’s gospel, Mark 13:1-8, Jesus seems to offer both words of caution and words of reassurance. He first prophesies that “all will be thrown down” (verse 2). Destruction is coming. He then encourages them, in the midst of destruction, and other chaos, “do not be alarmed” (verse 7).
New Testament scholars tend to regard Jesus’ words as referring to the horrific Roman siege and annihilation of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 AD. These events, Jesus intimates, are signs of an impending cataclysm in advance of which the prudent will hastily flee to the hinterlands. Yet, in the midst of it all, Jesus’ disciple, Jesus’ friends, need not worry. This is not simply because they have been forewarned. This is because of Jesus’ faithful, steady, and strong presence.
Jesus’ presence is so strong that, through the brokenness and chaos of our lives, He can communicate His love, He rejoins us. In the two weeks since my arrival at Ascension and Saint Agnes, on three occasions, by three members of our parish community, I heard used, to describe the challenges of these past couple of years, the word “upheaval”. I am led to believe that this gospel may shed particular light for us. Does Jesus not tell us very directly that we need not worry? We have been joined, by grace, to the mystery of God, and nothing can separate us. Indeed, as St. Paul tells us, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 8:38-39)
This year’s stewardship campaign is off to an amazing start. I cannot help but think that such moving generosity is an expression of trust in Jesus’ faithful, steady, and strong presence. We can dare to believe that the challenges that we have experienced (and there will inevitably be more!) may, in fact, be the birth pangs of the New Creation. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for your trust.
From the desk of the Rector