Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
We are made in the image of God. The question then must be asked, "How shall we live in a way that is compatible with that truth?" How we live reveals what we believe that image to be - the smallness or largeness of our ideas about God, the kindness or meanness, the miserliness or generosity, the ugliness or beauty. All is disclosed in the way we live, the things we say and how we treat our fellow human beings.
We need to examine our lives to see what it is that must be changed. If our ideas are off the mark set by the Lord, then we must change our minds. If our actions do not represent the goodness of the God revealed by Jesus Christ, then our behavior must change. If our lives are not beautiful, filled with grace, and marked by compassion, then we know we are far from the target.
How do we do this with examination? Stillness. Meditation. Prayer. Fasting. Vigilance. Mindfulness. Love. Sounds like a lot of work and it is, but it is the essential and only work of a faithful life. Without it we cannot attain anything lasting in this life or the next. The Advent Fast calls us to do this work - reminds us that this is the work. And what comes of this work? "The fruit of stillness is perfect freedom, perfect love, humility and wisdom." (St. Gregory of Sinai)
The rich fruit of the spiritual life brings us the very things we want above all, those things that are eternal and that can neither wither, fade nor be taken away. Spirituality is not about gathering bits and pieces of information that added up will result in salvation. It is about living in a way that is fully present, fully awake and faithful to the truth one finds with eyes wide open whatever it may be.
My brothers and sisters, we prepare for the Great Feast of the Nativity during Advent so that the fullness of Christ may awaken in our hearts. Christ will be born whether or not we are ready and whether or not we care, but preparation makes the road to Bethlehem a joyful, meaningful and transformative journey.
With deepest affection,
Fr. Antony Hughes