Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Winston Churchill was reprimanded at one point by Lady Astor for ending a sentence with a preposition. Churchill responded, “This is the kind of thing up with which I will not put.”[i] Well, I’m thinking here about endings, lots of things coming to an unexpected end in our world and in our nation, some of it surprising, or relieving, or galvanizing, or frightening. And this coincides with the church year having just ended. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of the new year for the church, Advent being observed the four Sundays prior to Christmas.
Although it doesn’t seem possible, this is already the fifth year of our Monastic Internship Program, in which we invite young people to live alongside us to share our rhythm of life: prayer, worship, work, service, life in community. We have the largest group ever this year: a total of eight, four here and four at Emery House. They come from Australia, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Maryland and right here in Massachusetts. The program is for me a source of great joy and satisfaction. One of the deeply gratifying things about it is the sense that in participating in the spiritual formation of young people we are participating in the future: the future of the Church, the future of the world.
The internship program is also a source of continual amazement: this year’s group is nothing like any other year’s. Each group of interns has brought to our life a unique combination of qualities and gifts, its own particular vitality, its own particular flavor, its own savor, its own particular “salt”. Jesus is talking about salt today: “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” [Mark 9: 49-50]
This may be one of the more obscure sayings of Jesus. Sometimes I think he must have taken pleasure in leaving people scratching their heads. Be salted with fire? Have salt in yourselves? “You are the salt of the earth…” [Mat. 5:13] Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another?