Today marks the first day of another season of Advent. It also marks the beginning of a daily collaboration with some blogging friends, in which we will be sharing a post each day over our different platforms.
These will include
This one (obivously.)
Steve Broadway, who has a prodigiously varied output of drawings and photographs here.
Graham Peacock; pantomime dame, chaplain, former methodist minister, terrible cricketer, who has a wonderful eclectic, thoughtful blog here.
We would love you to come with us on the journey. The simplest way to do this is to subscribe to one of the blogs, and then you should get a daily notification (you can always unsubscribe later!) Otherwise, you can interact with the posts via the usual social media platforms (although I am no longer doing twitter.) A few shares and likes will help us make connections too…
Our intention is to move forward with hope, savouring questions and having no fear of doubt. We live in darkness but look towards light.
To get us started, this is a view from one of my favourite places, the site of St Blanes chapel, built in a bowl of Isle of Bute hills on the site of a monastery established by or after Catan, an Irish missionary saint, some time in the 500s.
Amongst and around the viking graves and medieval church walls, you can see marks and mounds in the earth from the earlier religious settlement. A boundary wall marking the division between ‘secular’ and ‘sacred ‘space, simple beehive cells made from piles of stones in which monks lived. A well still full of fresh sparkling water. Wild plants whose ancestors may have been planted as part of a monastic garden.
Leaning in are huge trees; oaks and sycamores – ancient, but more recent than the placing of the stones.
But the stones themselves – they are old on a different scale. Shaped by the igneous intrusion that formed much of these parts.
It is a place of reflection. A place when our hubris is measured against almost-infinity. Our place in things becomes so tiny so ephemeral.
Wierdly however, this place never erases my individuality, rather it contains it. Rather than reducing me to so much blown chaff, as relevant (and as irrelevant) as a fallen leaf, it connects me.
But what is this thing that I feel connected to?
The old answers never felt authentic, even when I pretended greater confidence. They used language and ideas given to me that were at best merely a mode of travel, they were never a destination. Perhaps there is no destination. But still, in moments and in places like this, I find myself sensing something beyond myself that draws me. I have no pressing need to define it, to categorise, but I feel hints of sometihng vitalising and alive beyond almost anything else in my experience.
Are these just the fanciful meanderings of a middle aged man? Perhaps, but if so, I am in good company at St Blanes chapel. People have been seeking the same answers there for one and a half thousand years, despite the intervention of Vikings and the Reformation (incidentally, apparently the minister there refused to play ball with the reformists, and he was so loved that they let him be.)
Advent is not about certainty, it is about a sense of something more ‘felt’ than known. In my experience it contains a longing that can not be easily described. It is perhaps best understood as a fleeting transcendent connection to something beyond
The most tantalising thing of all is that what I think I sense most strongly in these moments is goodness.
Almost as if at the centre of all things is…