One benefit of the post-Thankgiving, pre-Advent quiet is that there has been plenty of time for me to read. Two things I have read that are providing me both comfort and encouragement: Surfing With Mel, a Kindle book by Matthew Lickona that you can purchase and read for all of $0.99; Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World by Walker Percy.
Percy's novel is an amazing commentary on many things, not the least of which is Christianity in the U.S.A. Writing in the character of his novel's anti-hero, Dr. Tom More (a distant relative of St. Thomas More), Percy comments on Ellen Oglethorpe, his lovely Presbyterian nurse from the state of Georgia:
Ellen, though she is a strict churchgoer and a moral girl, does not believe in God. Rather does she believe in the Golden Rule and in doing right. On the whole she is embarrassed by the God business. But she does right. She doesn't need God. What does God have to do with being honest, hard-working, chaste, upright, etcetera. I on the other hand believe in God, the Jews, Christ, the whole business. Yet I don't do right. I am a Renaissance pope, an immoral believer. Between the two of us we might have saved ChristianityPrior this, Percy wrote, "The psychologists are all wrong about puberty. Puberty changes nothing. This morning I woke with exactly the same cosmic sexual-religious longing I woke with when I was ten years old."
Since Advent begins at sundown tomorrow with the celebration of First Vespers, which is the first liturgy of the new Year of Grace, our Friday traditio is my favorite Advent hymn, "Hark a Thrilling Voice Is Sounding." This 10th century Latin hymn was translated into English by Edward Caswall in 1849. It sings of Jesus Christ, the Sun who dispels the darkness and "shines upon the morning skies." The tune, by William Henry Monk, has been closely associated with this hymn ever since the two were published together in 1850.
Lo! the Lamb, so long expected,
comes with pardon down from heaven;
let us all, with tears of sorrow,
pray that we may be forgiven;
that when next he comes with glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with his mercy he may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.