“Hope” has been the predominant word in my reflections, and those of the saints and others from which I have quoted this Advent. Arguably it is the predominant word for Advent. But from whence this hope, and to what end?
The answer is “peace,” peace in the biblical sense, that great Hebrew word shalom. Shalom is all encompassing, meaning not just the absence of conflict, but a sense of rightness, of justice, of equity, of equilibrium. The Celts called (and call) it “deep peace.”
Personally my Advent journey this year has been a search for this deep peace, my equilibrium having been completely snarled (I can think of so many adjectives to put there, not all of them worthy of a spiritual reflection!). Of course, as the prophets and Jesus taught, and the great Christian mystics since them, one of the characteristics of this deep peace is that it is available to us when the entire world around us is in conflict, the entire world including our own hearts and minds and souls.
That availability does not always mean easy access, however, and it is certainly a great truth that sometimes our only access to this deep peace is vicariously, through others, through the liturgy, through our experience of compassion and consolation. It’s a corollary to the adage I teach in confirmation classes, that “when I can’t have faith, you have to have it for me.” In fact this compassion and consolation, mutual faith and deep peace is really the only reason for the church to exist—but more than enough reason!
I pray deep peace for us this Advent, including myself, including the ability to live into the paradox that, as the spiritual says, “It is well with my soul,” even when it isn’t.