28 November 2010

‘To make an end is to make a beginning’

‘To make an end is to make a beginning’ ... tangled bicycles abandoned in the snow in Temple Bar, Dublin, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

I was preaching at the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral this morning [Sunday 28 November 2010], the First Sunday of Advent. Recalling that Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year, although it comes at the end of the calendar year, I quoted TS Eliot’s East Coker, the second of his Four Quartets, which is set in late November. The poem opens with the words: “In my beginning is my end ...” and it ends: “In my end is my beginning.”

So it was delightful to read the programme for the Advent Procession this evening, at which I was reading one of the Old Testament readings. The programme talks about how at the beginning of things we think about the end of things.

The readings reflected “this emphasis on Christ’s second coming, and include themes of accountability, judgement, and the hope of eternal life. The course of the service traces the witness of the prophets, of John the Baptist and of Mary, all of whom point us towards the birth of Jesus.”

The programme then said that all we had heard this afternoon was summed up in Charles Wesley’s hymn towards the end of the service, as the cathedral choirs processed to the West End of the Nave, Lo, he comes; with clouds descending.

That hymn reminds us of the paradox of our faith, the programme says, recalling the words of TS Eliot in the fourth and final poem of the Four Quartets, Little Gidding, published in 1942:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from ...

With snow and sleet, winter truly arrived in Dublin this weekend.

Advent has truly started too. We had a day of preparation for Advent in the cathedral yesterday, as the Revd Garth Bunting and Celia Dunne led a group of us in prayer through the labyrinth in the south transept.

Tomorrow [Monday], I’m speaking in the chapel at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute on ‘Spirituality for Advent,’ and we celebrate our Advent Eucharist on Wednesday evening at 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, the labyrinth remains available in the south transept of Christ Church Cathedral throughout Advent for prayer, penitence, preparation, reflection and meditation.

“Come Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people who trust in your love.” In the concluding words of this evening’s Advent Procession: “May the Lord when he comes find us watching and waiting.”

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in the snow this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Canon Patrick Comerford is a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute

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