Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Sermon: St John of the Cross and Advent

Today St John of the Cross enters our advent season, 

a figure that, I’d suggest to you, 

might be seen as as unwelcome as a skeleton at a Christmas feast:

We've just had Gaudete Sunday, joy, 

recalling that even as we wait He is already here

Yet, just after such a pleasant lightening of the mood, 

here comes Mr self-denial, Mr suffering, Mr Cross.

(1) The need for purging

 He's not FULLY here

There is MUCH that stops Him coming

and ONE of the things that STOPS Him from entering my soul, and entering my life, 

is my failure to embrace the Cross.

Even physically, 

before I am feed my belly more for Christmas, I must be purged of what already fills me

Spiritually, it is even more true:

I must be purged of so much in my heart, for Christ to have room to enter at Christmas


The dark night: 

  • of the senses, 
  • of the soul
Self denial 
  • love of the Cross

(2) Contrasting joy and pleasure:
  • Joy, spiritual joy, 
    • is fully compatible with the Cross
  • Physical pleasure 
    • was obviously not part of Christ’s experience on the cross 
    • And there are very real pains that accompany the purging, of the dark night (in its many forms)
  • Yet,
  • The fruit of love is joy
  • Physical pleasure 
    • comes from contact with physical goods, like donuts, and turkey

  • Spiritual joy,
    • come from contact, from union, with the spiritual good, with God
  • LOVE is that union, and love brings JOY

(3) My love needs re-ordering
  • The love in my heart is very confused very disordered
    • My yearning for the things of this world 
      • (the things that God made)
        • so often distracts me from, rather that leads me to, Him
  • And so,
    • I need that skeleton at my Christmas feast, 
    • I need St John of the Cross 
      • to re-order my heart
  • ”the gate that gives entry… Is the Cross.  Many seek the joys that can be found through it, but few desire to pass through it” (St John, office of readings)

(4) Penance in Advent
  • In the Latin Church, our Church:
    • we associate penance with Lent
  • But there is also a tradition of penance in Advent
  • We might say:
    • Lent is about penance, for past sins
    • Advent is about repentance FROM them,  to be ready for His coming, preparation
  • But,
    • part of such preparation needs to include self denial and the Cross
  • And
    • That's part of why having all these CHRISTMAS parties in the midst of ADVENT is so DAMAGING

  • (1) The need for purging
  • (2) The difference, but not contradiction, between physical pleasure and spiritual joy;
  • (3) My love needs re-ordering
  • (4) Advent penance does such a re-ordering
  • Christ wants to come, 
    • this is the whole message of advent
  • The Church prays for Him to come
    • I pray for Him to come
    • You pray for Him I come
  • But, on this feast of St John of the Cross, 
    • let’s remember that a continual part of getting ready for Him to come 

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