Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday in Advent 1

Isaiah 1:10-20
vv. 14, 17: I cannot endure your solemn assemblies with inquity...learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

One of the things Isaiah (along with many of the other Hebrew prophets) makes clear is that worship alone is not enough. Worship divorced from daily living is actually abhorent to God. Worship and justice are the two sides of the coin that is relationship with God.

Today on the church's calendar we remember Nicholas Ferrar and his religious community in mid-17th century England (at Little Gidding). Ferrar was himself a deacon and his founding of this community a very odd thing in post-reformation England, where monastic communities had disappeared.

Isaiah would have been pleased with the community at Little Gidding. They took their prayer seriously, using the services of the Prayer Book on a daily basis and becoming well-known for their practices of fasting and meditation. But that was only half of their commitment to God. The other half was holding themselves responsible for the well-being of the community in which they lived. In particular, they taught children and tended the sick among them.

The great poet T.S. Eliot of the 20th century was very fond of the story of Ferrar and his community, and he named the last of his Four Quartets, "Little Gidding." The end of that poem is, I think, a wonderful image of the union of worship and justice which is God's desire for our communal living (he uses words of the 15th century mystic Julian of Norwich as well):

Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less then everything)
And all shall be well
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are en-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Let the fire and the rose be one in our living.

Michael W. Hopkins, (c) 2008.

No comments: