Advent is a time when we are called to look ahead with hope, setting our eyes on God’s promised kingdom as we wait expectantly for that moment when all striving will cease and all will be made whole.
In Jesus Christ, of course, this glorious future breaks into the here and now. As we approach the great feast of Christmas, Advent invites us to dwell on all the ways that God has already come near to us in Jesus. We are invited to be attentive to God’s gracious presence in those everyday moments when we glimpse what it means to experience life in all its fullness.
In their Advent writings and homilies, a number of recent popes have illuminated this idea of God’s presence for us, helping us to understand that God is closer than we could possibly imagine. To help deepen our experience of Advent, we reflect on some of their insights, asking how we might be more attentive to the presence of God in our lives.
James Murnane is a Melbourne artist whose striking abstract artworks attempt to bring together his own ‘everyday experiences’ with a sense of God’s mysterious presence, pointing his audience to ‘the mystery of the One who is Love.’ We spoke with James about his spiritual life, his artistic practice and his upcoming exhibition, The present demands of love.
Another significant way that God is present to us is in the vulnerable and marginalised. As Christmas preparations and shopping threaten to distract and overwhelm us, one way to be more attuned to God‘s presence this Advent might be to ‘share the love‘ with those in our communities and our world who are most in need of our support. To this end, we’ve suggested a few Catholic organisations that you might like to consider supporting this Christmas.
For 70 years, the people of St Benedict’s Parish in Burwood have been a faithful sign of God’s presence and promise in their local community, especially as they have gathered at Mass through the years, but also through a variety of creative ministries. Last Sunday, they gathered for a special anniversary Mass celebrated by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, who gave thanks for all those moments ‘when the closeness of God’s kingdom has been revealed in your time and place’.
Finally, tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we celebrate a dogma first proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. We hear the story of how the gift of a bag of gold led to Victoria becoming connected to this extraordinary moment in the life of the Church.
May the presence and promise of God sustain and inspire you this week, and throughout this season of Advent.