“Separation of church and state” is an interesting expression, especially when Advent and Christmas roll around. Not in the formal legal sense, but rather “church” as the Body of Christ, and “state” as the secular without Christ awareness; and whether the former isn’t, in well-intended accommodating degree, caving to the latter. In my experience, church and state (which I am daily affected by) are so separated and distinct. I regularly study beforehand, when available, the leaflet for any church service I plan to attend, hymns and all, in hope of being fully engaged. Indeed, living, if you want to call it that, in a divided world is often tacitly acknowledged by a clergy person recommending before a service formally begins, the congregation take a deep breath and let God’s Spirit be present … I guess implying She’s otherwise somehow absent. In that respect every such service would seem to entail basically practice of Advent … our coming to, to allow God to be entwined with our lives for what is to be experienced in worship and celebration.
The insight “Always we begin again,” attributed to St. Benedict, resonates with this, I think. It’s the “this,” the “that,” and the “this” again. Sometimes I feel I’m going in circles with church, wondering whether I’ve gotten anywhere when beginning again. Advent, as Season, may be like this … routinely doing the same thing this year as last and ones before that, for doing’s sake, maybe providing security and comfort. Part of a sermon I heard years ago strikes me here. Its critical point was about “playing church” and how very dangerous that is … because, well, integrity of “mean-ing” matters. Oh, 2 B 1!
Perhaps this Advent 2019, the practiced circles of tradition, as truly lovely as they are, would, if they haven’t already, take the shape of a spiral where “mean-ing” becomes truer, and deeper or wider; and separation from God less and less. And this may go either direction or both: spinning down to a focus infinitely deep and serenely intimate; or opening up endlessly, generously making room for more and more, reconciled in love. A spiral: a “circle” constantly changing in diameter, in 3-D motion. Christmas, the Mass celebrating God’s Christ having broken into time … (Do we have any idea what that means?) … and human history to “walk” and feel and suffer with us as one of us to guide the Way, ties to this. The “coming” element of Advent might be regarded especially as our own ongoing “journey” in expectation and hope to live and thrive, spiraling, here and now, into God’s Goodness as People of Easter, our foundational Christian identity. The One who has come is, after all, already here in Spirit-sent, waiting as Homemaker, to be our fertile Ground.
Patient God: Distractions of daily living and endless anxieties over survival and strict tradition, cause regularly no place for Grace for many if not all of us and, so, separation from You. Forgive us that. “Your Kingdom come …” we so often pray, however, be, through your Mercy, more and more the way forward of our lives, our Advent to live regularly, where our hearts open to You-in-waiting, that we would come through and be shaped and healed for being, in love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.