Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent

Today's collect:
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

What this prayer has to do with the Advent season is a question to ponder. Indeed in my youth I pondered deeply why we sought to "read Mark, learn" when the evangelist Mark recounts nothing of the Christmas story.

It is a Protestant prayer and indicates the high place that the Church in England gives to Holy Scripture, regardless of being broad, high and low. I do not think it is fundamentalist, as I believe some American sects are termed, for it seeks support to "digest" the Scriptures, to mark and to learn, rather than to be directed in life by single verses that may be at odds with other verses; or indeed with human experience.

For this is an apposite collect when taken alongside today's Gospel reading, which looks forward t the Second Advent of Christ. Listen to the 16th century translation of this passage of the Gospel of Luke and you need not wonder why I have remained wedded to the Prayer Book: ...and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

The passage states, quoting Our Lord, "This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled;"
This is perplexing indeed. Indeed it is possible to speculate it refers not to the Second Advent but to the Ascension; for it is the Protestant way to digest the words of scripture, to understand they are not always easy to comprehend; and yet there is much that is so easy that a child can apprehend it better than an older person.


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