Advent is a time of prophecies–looking back and looking forward at the same time. What has the past given us and how does it point to the future?
Others have said it before, but I believe Benedict XVI chose his name because of the great St Benedict–not really because of any of his fifteen Benedictine predecessors. The time of St Benedict was a time of social decay, financial collapse, moral decline and eventual anarchy.
St Benedict retreated to the hills and hunkered down in founded small communities devoted to prayer, to liturgy, to work and to study. The battened down the hatches, and like Noah in the ark, settled in to brave the storm. Brave the storm they did, and in doing so the Benedictines established the foundation for the greatest flowering of Christendom the world has ever seen.
Is this where we are headed and is this why Benedict chose his name? Is the model for the next age of the church the Benedictine model? T.S.Eliot predicted that only a new monastic movement would keep alive the flame of culture in the coming dark age of nihilism and violence and despair.
While looking at this, it is good to remember that Benedict was actually a layman, and that his communities were mostly communities of laymen. With this in mind, it is encouraging to see the wave of new ecclesial movements across the church. These new movements are largely founded and driven by lay people. They are gathering together to grow in Christ, to renew their spiritual lives and to hold together in community. Perhaps they did not know that they were being drawn together to brave the coming storm, but God knew what he was doing in drawing them together and establishing the new ecclesial communities.
Ahh, now, I hear you say, “You can take the boy out of fundamentalism, but you can’t take the fundamentalism out of the boy. This is apocalyptic talk Father, come now. Let’s not get into the ‘Tim LaHaye Left Behind’ mentality. Perk up. Things are not so bad!”
If you say this, perhaps you are right. I hope you are. I don’t like to be a harbinger of doom any more than anybody else does.
Nevertheless…it is Advent.