ADVENT MESSAGE FROM THE RECTOR

Fr. Gordon Hines

The year was 166 AD. The place was a Roman city. It was one of countless Roman cities whose citizens were suffering from their first great plague, most likely smallpox.

When a person contracted the plague, neighbors and families would often abandon them, sending them into the streets to die. And die they did, with their last refuge before their demise often being the fountain at the city’s center. There they could quench their parched throats with water. If you were to walk the streets of a Roman city during this season of death you could mark the plague victims by their blood-soaked clothes, caused by hemorrhaging pustules on the skin.

Yet, in the midst of this human misery, Christians were there to care for the sick, risking their lives by doing so. Disregarding concerns for their own welfare, they would gather up the sick and dying and carry them to the home of a fellow-Christian, who would tend to them. The sick were bathed, their wounds treated. The greatest gift the Christians imparted to those whom they cared for was their love and compassion. While there was no cure for the smallpox, Christians tending to the victims increased the disease survival rate by as much as two-thirds.

Something remarkably new was cascading into human history since the Advent of the Incarnation:  disciples of Our Blessed Lord were imitating His life by loving their neighbor through acts of sacrificial love. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink…. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:35, 40).

Slave, soldier, pauper, nobleman – all were viewed in the eyes of the Christian as children of God, made in His image and likeness. Such selflessness had never been experienced since the dawn of human history, and this led to numerous converts to the Faith.[1]

 

As in the plague infested Roman days, the cry for help among our fellowmen today is equally great. Many are increasingly finding themselves hungry, homeless, sick and bereft of family and friends. Our Lord will bless our efforts if we allow Him to work in and through us.

Loving others, however, can be daunting, and many feel they cannot rise to the challenge. When we feel unworthy or inadequate in trying to give of ourselves, we can draw strength and encouragement from this great teaching by F. Fenelon, “You will find all that is lacking in your heart in the heart of Jesus.” A corollary to this saying by Fenelon is offered by another great writer, the Anglican G. P. Carleton, who said, “The more we know him, the more we shall love him; and the more we love him, the more we shall want to serve him.”[2]    

My prayer for each of you this Advent is that you will experience God’s love in a more profound and miraculous way. Advent is a wonderful season in the Church Year to meditate on the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation – of God taking on our flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Through prayer and the Sacraments we experience union and intimacy with Our Lord.  The motive behind God’s dwelling among us is love. Our Lord entered into human history to share in our sufferings, to save us from sin and death.

We already see the love of God incarnate in our members through countless acts of sacrificial giving of time, treasure and talent. Our love for one another can continue to flourish the more we allow Christ to dwell in us and we in Him. He will be Incarnate in our lives if we invite Him in through prayer, His Word and the Sacraments and through the many other opportunities being made available this Advent at St. George’s.

I encourage each of you to read Raymond Raynes work, The Faith(please see a write-up of this work below). The Advent Wreath daily devotional (see below) is fabulous for nurturing daily prayer and Bible reading as a family around the dinner table. Visiting a shut-in or feeding the hungry through our Pastoral Care Ministry network is available to you. Inviting a friend or family member to our children’s Christmas pageant and the Festival of Nine Lessons carol service is also a terrific way to share the love of Our Blessed Lord, preparing our hearts for celebrating the joys of His Nativity.

With every good wish and blessing this Advent Season,

 

Fr. Gordon Hines+


[1] Colson, Charles & Fickett, Harold, The Faith (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008), pps. 15-17.

[2] Carleton, G. D., The King’s Highway, (Tufton Books, 2001), p. 7.

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