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Our expectation

  • FATHER GEORGE RUTLER

The explanation for your sense of expectation is that you have an imagination.


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LewisCS98C.S. Lewis
1898-1963

Unlike animals guided by instinct, we can imagine past and future.  Advent is the time of expectation.  Since Christ is not limited by time, he can be born again in our lives at every Christmas.

Expectation requires thinking about the four most important matters of existence: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  These are the primary mysteries that arrest the attention of minds awake, more compelling than holiday shopping and attempts at partying before Christmas begins.

To look at death at the start of Advent is what we do on a small scale when we look at the end of anything, whether it be the end of the day or the end of some project we have been working on, or even the end of a movie or a song.  The question is: Does the end of life have a purpose?  C.S. Lewis answered that in a typically lucid way: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad."

Along with the sense of expectation is the intuition that what is expected is more vital than what we now have.  On the day after Christmas in 1941, Winston Churchill stood before the joint houses of Congress and spoke of ". . . my life, which is already long, and has not been entirely uneventful."  Then a full twenty-four years later, his dying words were: "I'm bored with it all." That was really wonderful because, though skeptical about the Gospel, he knew that things as they are, are not enough.  He was a bit like Benjamin Franklin who, while far from an orthodox Christian, playfully wrote his own epitaph as a printer, comparing himself to a worn old book: "For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more, In a new and more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended, By the Author."

There is a worthy movement now to rebuild the lamented old Pennsylvania Station, constructed on the site of our original church.  That church was destroyed in 1963, in the arrogant period when many classical churches were wrecked by misguided liturgical experts who shared the modern contempt for anything old.  The restoration of the old station would cost about $3.5 billion, an immense amount but small change compared to the $20 billion of innocuous glass boxes rising around us in the Hudson Yards development.

Jesus spoke of rebuilding the Herodian Temple in three days (John 2:19).  That was at the price of his own blood, for he was speaking of his body.  He did raise it.  And he can do the same for us.

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Acknowledgement

Rutler5smFather George W. Rutler. "Our expectation." From the Pastor (December 3, 2017).

Reprinted with permission from Father George W. Rutler.

The Author

Rutler1rutler46smFather George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City.  He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2017 Father George W. Rutler
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