December 23rd, 2014
A new Advent season in Wapping
I moved community recently to the Hurtado Jesuit (SJ) Centre, in Wapping, East London. A dear friend, a Chilean FMM sister, who knows St Alberto Hurtado SJ better than I, sent me an inspiring quotation of his:
‘When a man[i] leaves the beaten paths, the hackneyed ways of his times, he attacks the established evils; he speaks of revolution, he is considered mad, a lunatic. As though the witness of the Gospel were not madness, as though the Christian were not capable of a great effort to construct, as if we were not strong in our weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12,9). We need many “lunatics” like these, strong, constant, animated by an invincible faith.’
So there at least is some incentive to go a bit mad! I moved here the week before Advent began. This is a good season to feel my way into a new place and a new work. Wapping is a bit of a ‘mad’ place with access to many interesting different histories, peoples and proposed developments. The Centre is exploring how best it can be hospitable to its neighbours and also how it can use the resources the Jesuits have to provoke constructive discussion on relevant matters in ‘the service of faith and the promotion of justice’[ii]. Clearly one area of concern is for people ‘on the move’, migrants and those displaced from their places of home.
Advent is also a time for us to reflect on the ‘madness’ of one mystery of faith, the nativity of the person, who we believe holds the key to our existence, Jesus, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us (cf. Jn 1,14). This belief is, of course, quite mad to those of no faith and even to many of different faiths. We ourselves need time to meditate on the huge implications of this event of our faith; for society at large as well as for our own inner life.
Alberto Hurtado died quite young, exhausted by his labours. However, he did note the need to have times for reflection and for re-gathering one’s strength. He said,
‘The generous man tends to move along too quickly: he would like to restore the good and destroy injustice, but he must contend with the inertia both of men and of things themselves. Spiritually it is about walking in step with God, about taking one’s exact place in the plan of God. All effort that goes beyond this is useless, even harmful.’
We might take this to heart in our preparation for discovering what God would like to show us this Christmas.
Stephen Power SJ joined the Hurtado Community this autumn and now provides direction to the development of the Centre.