The second Sunday in Advent is traditionally associated with the word hope. Here it is, written on the side of our house by Marcel, a German graffiti artist.
It is a difficult word for melancholics like me; it leaves no room for cynical detachment.
It is a fragile word, floating like a blown egg in rough seas.
Any journey worth making requires lots of hope. The Advent journey more than most, as it is towards the uncertain idea of Emmanuel; the hope of God with us, God amongst us.
God making flesh out of love.
Practically speaking, Advent is also about hoping for things to once again be made new. For the past-present-future revolution of God to be set loose again in the spirits and minds of those who have seen beyond the tinsel into something so amazing that it might yet change everything.
Some years ago, I wrote a poem on a desert island- thought to be a place on which St Brendan started a monastery between some of those incredible voyages he took off in different directions. I was struck by another word; Perigrinatio, or ‘holy voyaging’, which was one of those spiritual practices that defined the mission of the early Celtic church. Monks got into a boat and set off. They had no plan, no mission statement, rather they had the wind and the waves and the tides. It was evident that if and when they made a landing, this was surely the place where God must have sent them.
I think we would be wrong to describe this kind of journey as passive and unthinking. To make a journey into the unknown is always foolish in part, because only a fool risks the uncertainty of the high seas. What the monks were doing was deliberately casting themselves into the mission of God. They were making a prayer out of movement, a prayer out of vulnerability and dependency.
Above all things it was a prayer of hope.
Here is the poem I wrote. My own prayer of hope…
Lord stain me with salt
Brine me with the badge of the deep sea sailor
I have spent too long
On concrete ground.
If hope raises up these tattered sails
Will you send for me
A fair and steady wind?