Sunday, December 09, 2007


According to a recent public opinion questionnaire, a significant number of people in Britain know nothing of Advent - or if they do, think it is, er, something to do with the number of shopping days to Christmas... Depressing, maybe, but I hope this consumer-filled lacuna will not become an occasion for predictable Christian whingeing. In post-Christendom the inbuilt captivity of the wider social order to received Christian ideas is being steadily eroded, and the answer is not to reassert control (the Gospel is about gracious possibility, which is destroyed by compulsion), but to ask whether it is really much better in the church. Practices of hopeful waiting - spiritual, intellectual and subversively political - need to be rediscovered in such a way that they really can be seen to 'make a difference' in public life. It is the quality of compassionate living which communicates Advent hope, not rhetoric buttressed by guilt or divorced from costly engagement. By contrast, complaining about the loss of a 'Christian country' is the easy option: at best a distraction, at worst a trip in the wrong direction. [Pic: radical advent]

"Humility is attentive patience." - Simone Weil

"The contemplative life should liberate and purify the imagination which passively absorbs all kinds of things without our realizing it; liberate and purify it from the influence of so much violence done by the bombardment of social images.... The training of the imagination implies a certain freedom and this freedom implies a certain capacity to choose and to find its own appropriate nourishment. Thus in the interior life there should be moments of relaxation, freedom, and 'browsing'." - Thomas Merton


Michael Krahn said...


I just put up a series of posts about Thomas Merton that I think you'd enjoy at:

Jane said...

Once January comes I may find time to read the copy of Doing December Differenty that I've just bought - by Nicola Slee. Anyway love the idea of regenerative contemplation and enjoyed your links. DDD is by Wild Goose of course

Simon Barrow said...

Thanks, Michael.

Jane - Nicola is great. Both her scholarly work and her popular writing... including, of course, 'Teddy Horsley' for the kids. Though that bear is a little too naturally religious for my comfort ;-)

Jane said...

Must try the Teddy books
Stephen is very into bears - we have two who share our morning tea named after French socialist politicians - Mitterand and Rocard ... this is probably too much informaiton! I think I may have heard of the Horsley book does the bear go to communion?

Simon Barrow said...

It sure does, with great inquisitiveness, diligence and cuteness. I think there should be one called 'Teddy Horsley Goes AWOL'... ;)