These short editorials were published during the first year of the tenure of H. Boone Porter, Jr. (1923-99, editor 1977-90) as editor of The Living Church. Fr. Porter taught church history at Nashotah House from 1954 to 1960, and liturgics at the General Theological Seminary from 1960 to 1970. In addition to a wide array of responsibilities in the Episcopal Church, Porter served on the Standing Liturgical Commission from 1961 to 1976, and the General Board of Examining Chaplains from 1970 to 1982. He was a member of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, the Anglican Society, the Alcuin Club, and the Living Church Foundation.
Editorials: “The End of Advent” and “Approaching Christmas”
From The Living Church, December 18, 1977, p. 12.
The end of Advent
Advent speaks first of Christ’s future coming to judge the world at the end of history, secondly of his historic coming into our world two thousand years ago, and thirdly of his present coming into our hearts and lives. As the season comes to a close, the last two themes tend to attract all our attention. Indeed for many churchpeople in the Anglican tradition, the first theme has hardly ever received attention, even though it is mentioned in both Creeds. For members of certain other Christian groups, on the other hand, Christ’s final coming is a central element in their faith and piety.
One of the changes in spirituality in recent years has been a much wider attention to this very biblical theme of Christ’s return. Many Episcopalians have been surprised to find themselves saying
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
A new aspect of the eucharist comes to life when we think of it as a sign that we are waiting for the day of the Lord’s return. To wait is a quite distinct kind of activity. It means recognizing that someone else is the prime mover or principal actor. It means admitting that we ourselves are in secondary roles, so secondary that we do not know the time schedule. It means living in patience and hope. This is the spirit of much of the Bible, especially of the Psalms which are such a regular part of traditional public and private prayer. This is the spirit in which the New Testament speaks of breaking the bread and drinking the cup until the Lord comes.
This theme of Advent will not go out of season until the Lord has in fact come. All our lives will continue to be in Advent in this sense. Our time, Christian time, is always lived on the brink of eternity. Will history end with a nuclear holocaust, or the total dessication of the environment, or in a dramatic supernatural event? We do not know. It could end in any one of many ways. In any case, mankind lives on borrowed time: history has no guaranteed survival clause. For Christians the good life is the life of those who are always ready to greet the Lord. Are we?
These last few days of frantic preparation for Christmas can be lots of fun, or frightfully hectic, or both. We would hope, however, that Christians would not be in quite such a hurry.
We hear people say they wish Christ were put back into Christmas. He is already there, but now, as at other times, we have to be willing to take time to see him.
By taking time for prayer and reflection we not only make it possible for us to have a deeper appreciation of this feast, but we enable ourselves to grow, so that we can become the kind of people who bear witness to others of the presence of Christ within us.
Richard Mammana is the Archivist of the Living Church Foundation.