Remembering to Wait
The second national lockdown has coincided with the season of remembering – starting with All Saints and All Souls, and moving through to Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. This season of remembering comes immediately before Advent, a season of waiting, watching and expecting; a season when we look forward; a season when we renew our sense of hope.
It seems to me there is something of profound importance in this sequence for our spiritual and also psychological growth. The intentional calling to mind each year, first of loved ones departed and then of those who suffered and died in the ravages of two world wars and other conflicts, enables us to do something which is naturally difficult for us – to contemplate pain, loss, and suffering. We do it in unison, corporately, and at its heart is silence. The mind avoids contemplating painful things if it can. Indeed, confronted with trauma, it actively shuts down parts of itself, which explains why those who suffer trauma often cannot recall the events which caused the trauma. Trauma, in other words, reduces us to silence.
When we try to hold together suffering and faith, silence is perhaps the most appropriate response. It is a mystery why God appears to permit great suffering. It is a mystery how God is at work in a time of war. It is a mystery trying to hold together sacrifice of life and the making of peace. As humans, our busy minds generate questions and paradoxes easily, but we must acknowledge there are no easy answers.
Each week in the Communion Service we hear proclaimed: “Great is the mystery of faith.” This is not so much an invitation to try to work out answers to the questions, but to sit patiently with our questions and to let God Himself speak into them.
So here comes the connection with Advent, the season of waiting, watching, hoping. God speaks into the here and now of our questioning silence with His Word: “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.” Advent holds within itself a dual scheme: waiting for the Christ child and waiting for his coming again. The child, Jesus, who comes to us as vulnerable infant is the Christ who dies and rises again; the child who is God with us, suffering in our here and now, is the child who is eternally God; the child who has beginning and ending is also beyond both beginning and ending; the child who is Alpha is also Omega.
Moving from our remembering into our waiting is a way of expressing that the hope we look forward to is not an answer we can create for ourselves. God tells us something new, something that we cannot know by ourselves. We must wait for God to create in us the faith that allows us to hold on to the hope He lovingly sends us in the person of His Son, Jesus. It is a lifetime’s work!