Advent: “a winter training camp for those who desire peace…”

It is Advent. I can scarcely believe the speed with which this year has flown past. Neither can I quite believe – despite all the dimensions of our world which are still positive, creative and hopeful – the quantum leap which our troubled planet seems to have taken this year: into a frightening level of  population displacement with its attendant human misery, and of mindless violence for the continuation of which, it appears, we have to steel ourselves for the foreseeable future until our political lords and masters can come up with some kind of solution. As I write, that solution is not at all obvious.

Advent's Light
Advent’s Light

What can we do about this at an individual level, to help our feelings of pain for the suffering of our fellow human beings, and to make us feel less helpless?  At a practical, outgoing level, we can send donations of food, clothing, money to help ease the plight of  those millions of refugees displaced by violent upheaval.

Advent, however, invites us to pause, be still, go within…The great psychologist and mystic Carl Jung observed that if there is something wrong with the world, then there is something wrong with us.  We can start the process of possible change for the better by looking unflinchingly into our own hearts  – and amending our own behaviour. Writer Edward Hays puts this challenge beautifully:

   “Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare… Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide…

   “Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts.

An Advent Examination
Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196

Readers, do you have a favourite Advent reflection, meditation or poem which has inspired and comforted you? If so, do share it in a comment. 

Advent's Light
Advent’s Light

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

7 thoughts on “Advent: “a winter training camp for those who desire peace…”

  1. Beautiful, Anne. Thank you for sharing Advent inspiration and lovely reflections. And yes indeed … how is it that time already? ‘Time speeding up’ (or frequency acceleration) … yep, sure feels like it. xoxo Jamie

    1. You are welcome, Jamie. I always feel more reflective as the year moves towards its deepest, darkest point of ending/renewal at the winter solstice. So sharing a meditative quote at the start of Advent does appeal…thanks as always for dropping by, and for all your support of my writing this year. It is greatly appreciated, as indeed is the inspiring Sophia’s Children blog! X

  2. Honestly, it feels as though you’ve understated the speeding up of time. Here it is, the second Sunday of Advent, and I’m just getting here to comment on its start. My current post is about one of my favorite poems — Cavafy’s “Ithaka” — but of course T.S. Eliot would be included, too: “I said to my soul, be still, and let the darkness come upon you, which is the darkness of God…” Whether that’s an accurate quote I don’t know, but it’s very close, and one I always remember, even when I can’t remember where my phone or my car keys are!

    I did some looking around for Advent poetry, and discovered even the ones that took the season on straight are, sad to say, not particularly memorable or soul-stirring. Music is something else. The musical setting of Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” just can’t be beat!

    1. Well, Linda, as ever you have an uncanny knack of knowing my tastes! “In the Bleak Midwinter” just happens to be one of my favourite carols…gorgeous rendition, thanks. And the TS Eliot quote as well as a mention of Cavafy’s “Ithaka” – love those too. You may not have heard of the
      brilliant writer and former Bishop of
      Edinburgh Richard Holloway,but here is one for you: his memoir “Leaving
      Alexandria” – a play on Cavafy’s Alexandria and Holloway’s birthplace, the small town of Alexandria in Scotland. I
      think you would enjoy Holloway’s writing. He, too, loves and quotes poetry. Now, off to catch up on my week’s blogs: starting with your post…

  3. What a beautiful song. I have never heard it and also the quote from T. S. Eliot. It has been speeded up and hectic and this was what I needed at the moment. Thank you for sharing.

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