20 December 2015

Waiting in Advent 2015 with
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (22)

Advent colours at the High Altar in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin … this is the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

In our journey towards Christmas this year, we have arrived at the Fourth Sunday of Advent today [20 December 2015], and I am presiding at the Sung Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this morning.

The fourth and final candle which we light on the Advent Wreath this morning represents the Virgin Mary. The Gospel reading this morning tells the story of her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and the Canticle Magnificat is provided as either in the place of the Psalm or as the longer ending to the Gospel reading.

During the season of Advent this year, I am working my way through my own Advent Calendar. Each morning, I am inviting you to join me for a few, brief moments in reflecting on the meaning of Advent through the words and meditations of the great German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945).

In an Advent sermon in London on 17 December 1933, Bonhoeffer said the Canticle Magnificat, the Song of the Virgin Mary, “is the oldest Advent hymn,” and he spoke of how she knows better than anyone else what it means to wait for Christ’s coming:

“She, of course, knows better than anyone else what it means to wait for Christ’s birth. Her waiting is different from that of any other human being. She expects him as his mother. He is closer to her than anyone else. She knows the secret of his coming, knows about the Spirit, who has a part in it, about the Almighty God, who has performed this miracle. In her own body she is experiencing the wonderful ways of God with humankind: that God does not arrange matters to suit our opinions and views, does not follow the path that humans would like to prescribe. God’s path is free and original beyond all our ability to understand or to prove”

The Virgin Mary stands with the Christ Child, a Christmas scene carved by Mary Grant in the centre of the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, Lichfield Gazette)

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary): Micah 5: 2-5a; The Canticle Magnificat or Psalm 80: 1-8; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45 (46-55).

The Collect of the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

God our redeemer,
who prepared the blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
Grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
you have given us a pledge of eternal redemption.
Grant that we may always eagerly celebrate
the saving mystery of the incarnation of your Son.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

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