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Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.’

‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.’

Well another busy week has passed and we approach the end of the second national lockdown. I must admit I have found this lockdown particularly stressful as one plans ahead for Christmas and all the logistics involved in offering Christmas Masses this year. It is a mammoth task and the usual way of planning things has totally gone out of the window.

As many of you know I am not really a digital human being or a digital priest and I loathe sitting in front of a computer for hours, but this week this is what I have found myself doing as I input data to Eventbrite, pull all the information together for the newsletter regarding Christmas and the Octave of Christmas, look over the latest government guidelines and rules, online meetings and online courses regarding safeguarding, emails to reply too etc. etc. I really find sitting in front of a computer for so long very dull and it really is not why I trained to be a priest. I feel I have become a cleric in the old sense of the word!

At least I am still able to do my school work at St Patrick’s Primary School each week with liturgies and next week we are having an Advent Mass. I have temporarily stopped going into St George College as they recently had to send a large number of students’ home due to positive cases and if I am asked to self-isolate for two weeks then you may get no Christmas Masses at all. So I am being more cautious as we approach Christmas.

This Sunday we begin the season of Advent, please do watch our Advent Mass online and the details of how to do so are in the newsletter. The word Advent means “coming” and this season is about preparation for the coming of the infant Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. At the beginning of Mass in isolation I will light our first Advent Candle, a marker that we have started counting down towards Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

This Advent is going to be different as it begins in isolation for many of us and during a pandemic. This may enable us to prepare better, to set aside more time for the spiritual preparation. Advent is a time for examining what – or rather, whom – we hope for. It is a time of purifying hope, a Spiritual STAYING AWAKE as Jesus is telling all of us to do today in the Gospel, so STAY AWAKE because we do not know when HE is coming back, it could be “evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you still asleep.”

Advent is an invitation to stay awake and to examine ourselves not in the sentimental glow of all the Christmas lights and Christmas party cheer which this year will be muted, but rather Advent is asking us to examine ourselves against the certainty of the LAST THINGS: death, judgement, heaven and hell. Advent is about whether I will have the courage to stand confidently before the Son of Man when he comes on clouds to judge.

Advent is a season of HOPE! Christian hope teaches that when we hope for fulfilment, this hope is not deceptive, but a hope that is directed towards Christ and his saving action in history.

Some good news is that as we come out of lockdown we are now permitted to have public Masses whatever Tier we find ourselves in, but with the strict rules and guidelines in place. In other words, we are in the same position as we were before with social distancing, face masks, stewarding and seating arrangements.

A Happy Season of Advent to you all,

Fr Ross

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Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust

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