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Hands in the darknessHallo again to all.

The last of daylight is turning to shadowy blues and mysterious purples on this Advent Sunday. For some reason, we found ourselves not able to begin writing until the light faded, as if the connections between Advent, light and dark, waiting, endings and beginnings were so strong that words wouldn't form till the meteorological conditions were right.

But this is a terribly Northern-Hemisphere world view. Whilst we're living with days of scant sun, longing for the winter solstice when the balance is tipped again, those of you in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean islands are basking in full sun and high summer. So the day-to-day weather of Advent is quite different, depending on your place on the earth. No matter how much we delight in our cross-Communion connections and collaborations, our internet colleagues and online friends; no matter how much joy it gives us that Anglicans Online is thought of, by many, to be the cyber <groan> heart of the Anglican Communion, we are still here and you are there. And there. And over there. The small matter of place divides us, even if our hearts are united.

Does place still matter? Isn't it possible to have a 'cyberchurch'? Sean Mullen — a curate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA who lived for some years in Australia — writes on just how much distance there is from the internet to the gum tree.

Can't we simply form virtual dioceses that are composed of like-minded persons, no matter where they physically live? Do these lines of boundary we scratch on this earth, whether dioceses or countries, still matter? Bishop Pierre Whalon, our longtime columnist, looks at that question with regard to the vexing problem of parallel jurisdiction in his latest essay The Blight of Parallel Jurisdictions.

If how we experience Advent weather, as it were, varies, the eternal nature of this waiting season, this solemn and mysterious time, remains the same for us all. During Advent, the church traditionally asks us to contemplate the end of time — our Lord's return — and pay special attention to the 'Last Things': death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Solemn taskmasters, indeed. If Advent is the season of the second coming, it also anticipates and looks toward the first coming: the Incarnation, the utter surprise of a God who, for love's sake, takes on the stuff and matter of this life, this mortal place and makes it home, a place of light and love.

But first we need to wait, with the Four Last Things as our companions. We wait in our places on this earth, with its crisscrossed lines of country and diocese, of matter grounded, and of love, so often limited. But throughout Advent, no matter when the sunrise, no matter how short or long the days, we are all stumbling towards the light.

    Begin here.
    Say that you have chosen it.
    Say that it was your own hand that turned out the light, your own mouth that blew out the candle, your own eyes that closed themselves against the brightness.
    Say it was your doing.
    Say you needed the shadows, the darkness, that your eyes had begun to squint at the brightness, that the light had begun to make your head buzz. Say you needed the rest.
    Say you asked for it. Longed for it.
    Say you didn't.
    Say it wasn't you who chose it, wasn't you who reached to turn off the light, wasn't you who snuffed out the flame, who covered your eyes.
    Say the darkness stole up on you, say it overtook you, say it clamped its hand over your mouth before you could scream, its fingers across your eyes before you could take one last look at the light. Say it jimmied your door in the middle of the day, say it climbed through your window in the middle of the night and took sunrise with it.
    Or say it simply called to you from where it stood in the doorway, looking longingly at you and winking its great pale eye.
    Say you followed it home.

Darkness, by Jan L. Richardson, from Night Visions

See you next week.See you next week.

Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 30 November 2003

A thin blue line
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