21 December 2015

Waiting in Advent 2015 with
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (23)

‘The Mary who is speaking here is passionate, carried away, proud, enthusiastic’ … the apse in the Church of the Four Martyrs in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

In our journey towards Christmas, we are in the fourth and final week of Advent today [21 December 2015], with just four days to go to Christmas Day. I was writing yesterday of how the fourth and final candle on the Advent Wreath this week represents the Virgin Mary.

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 his Advent sermon in London on 17 December 1933, Bonhoeffer says the Canticle Magnificat, the Song of the Virgin Mary, “is the oldest Advent hymn.” He goes on to say:

“It is the most passionate, the wildest, and one might almost say the most revolutionary Advent hymn that has ever been sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary as we often see her portrayed in paintings. The Mary who is speaking here is passionate, carried away, proud, enthusiastic. There is none of the sweet, wistful, or even playful tone of many of our Christmas carols, but instead a hard, strong, relentless hymn about the toppling of the thrones and the humiliation of the lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind. This is the sound of the prophetic women of the Old Testament – Deborah, Judith, Miriam – coming to life in the mouth of Mary. Mary, who was seized by the Holy Spirit, who humbly and obediently lets it be done unto her as the Spirit commands her, who lets the Spirit blows where it will [John 3: 8] – she speaks by the power of this Spirit, about God’s coming into the world, about the Advent of Jesus Christ.”

Readings (Church of Ireland lectionary): Psalm 116: 11-17; II Samuel 7: 1-17; Titus 2: 11 – 3: 8a.

The Collect of the Day:

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.

‘She knows the secret of his coming’ … a copy of the Icon of Panaghia tou Harou on the Greek island of Lipsi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

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