Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Truth of Sisyphus

Although from Gaudete Sunday onwards we may start liturgically to direct our gaze a little more towards the first coming of Christ, the Advent backdrop never quite goes away. Thus I wonder whether at the very end of Advent, on Christmas Eve, there is a theme easily lost in the rush to mount the 6.30 Carol service and make sure the charcoal’s not damp for the Midnight.

There’s little reason to doubt that this Advent will end just as uneventfully as all the others, and the nearest we will get to the stars falling from the sky will be when local revellers dismantle the Corporation Christmas Tree. Advent is a journey never completed: instead of the logical resolution of the Season — the final in-breaking of the Kingdom — we find ourselves back at the beginning once more. Rather like a child whose pile of unwrapped presents never quite matches the excitement of the mysterious parcels, we find ourselves happy enough that Christmas Day is here, yet aware that it’s not really where the story should have gone. We get a glimpse of what is to come only through hearing of the end of someone else’s wait.

Camus’s essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ seems to me to suggest that although Sisyphus’s task never ends, he is nonetheless happy. He has almost reached journey’s end — and that is enough. A glimpse of what might be has been given him as he nears the top of the mountain. This is perhaps a paradigm of Advent, and particularly of Christmas Eve.

It’s long been ‘correct’ to identify the Easter Dawn Eucharist as the Solemnity of Solemnities, the ne plus ultra of Christian rejoicing this side of the Kingdom. Perhaps Christmas Eve should be styled the Vigil of Vigils, where the waiting is never quite over, but briefly we peer into that other country before we are sent back to the beginning to begin the journey once more. And like Sisyphus, we find that it is enough.

David Rowett (‘mynsterpreost’) is parish priest at Barton-upon-Humber in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Posted by David Rowett on Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 6:50am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: just thinking
Comments

Yes, Easter is a more satisfying feast.

Yuletide completely distorts Advent/Christmas. Put in a modern context, what fuss would be made over a single, homeless, lesbian mother and child seeking shelter in a cardboard box in one of our cities? Any visits from bishops or bankers?

A Good Samaritan not caught up in the Yuletide binge would help and take her and child to the nearest night shelter where there might be room in the inn...

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 11:43am GMT

I misread that from my adopted (though I'm more 'associate' now) parish priest and thought at first he might be advising some sort of important and informative check-up in the lower regions, but then it is the Christian season of Advent and such is the idea of Advent, as of Lent, for lower and higher regions.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 2:30pm GMT

Bravo, the pilgrimage never quite completed ... echoes of Cavafy's Ithaca. Yes, yes, oh yes. Ditto, insofar as empirical hypothesis testing is a journeying methodology-hermeneutics.

Only some ways into the journey, may a pilgrim begin to glimpse that one has met, is meeting, Alpha-Omega; thence to learning and growth, Tikkun Olam service, praise, delights all round. What a blessing not yet to be utterly alone, nor yet ejected from some global big tents?

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 8:31pm GMT

Echoes of MLK Jr: "I have been to the mountain-top . . . I may not get there with ya, but I have SEEN the Promised Land!"

Merry Christmas to all at Thinking Anglicans!



Posted by: JCF on Friday, 25 December 2009 at 7:35am GMT

That is seriously good thought and writing. Thank you, David.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 25 December 2009 at 1:39pm GMT

"Perhaps Christmas Eve should be styled the Vigil of Vigils, where the waiting is never quite over, but briefly we peer into that other country before we are sent back to the beginning to begin the journey once more. And like Sisyphus, we find that it is enough." - Mynsterpreost -

Thank you, David, for this lovely reflection. As we draw nearer to our 'sell-by-date', we are more and more drawn to the reality of the constant recycling of the Christian Year - as given to us by the culture of the Lectionary. People like myself are reminded of the fact that, at any time soon, we may be whisked out of the temporal reality into some other, more mystical sphere.

As I grow older, the mystery of the Incarnation -the God-with-us at Christmas & in the Eucharist - has become the almost more-important reality of the whole redemptive exercise. That God should have deigned to identify so intimately with our common human nature seems almost too incredible. Thank God that 'nothing is impossible for God'

We have a new baby grandchild - Zoe - a real gift of new life for our family. It is so easy at this point in time for us to recognise the amazing vulnerability of the Holy Infant in every child. Deo Gratias! May we come to admit our very own vulnerability, in Christ. Happy Christmas ALL.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 25 December 2009 at 10:36pm GMT

"People like myself are reminded of the fact that, at any time soon, we may be whisked out of the temporal reality into some other, more mystical sphere." - Ron

My view is that it won't seem so very different from this reality. The Incarnation right at the end of Advent reminds us that the Second Coming will seem to derive from a mundane sequence of events - an ordinary birth of an ordinary person in an ordinary town raised in an ordinary way by ordinary parents going about ordinary things...then things will happen which will remind us of what it was all for.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 30 December 2009 at 12:44pm GMT
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