This is the summary of the First Thursday discussion, November 1st, 2012
Summary of First Thursday discussion, November 1st, 2012
A prayer for All Saints Day mentions “the darkness of this age that is passing away”. Is that how most people think of the present times? Or is it an over-gloomy assessment of the state of the world today? Perhaps even a symptom of approaching (pessimistic) old age, or of psychological depression?
At one level it’s a reflection on the season- the approach of winter and increasing darkness. It is natural to want light (the prayer talks about “the light of God’s presence”) at such times. But it’s also important to remind ourselves that darkness is part of life: we should not resist what is sometimes called the “shadow” side of life. Refusing to recognise it, even pretending it is not there, is what often leads to real depression, when defences are finally broken down, unable to resist the reality of the aspects of our personalities we do not want to acknowledge.
But “the darkness of this age” seems to imply something wider, even global. Isaiah 35 speaks of the flourishing of the wilderness and the renewal of the life of a people after a time of destruction and despair (the Assyrian invasion at the end of the 8th century BC had devastated the land, completely destroyed the northern part of the nation, and had threatened the south). But the prophet can speak of hope, grounded in the action of God, in the face of that disaster.
The New Testament was written at a time when it was clear to many people that the great Roman Empire was doomed to collapse: its intrinsic injustice and the oppressive violence it has come to depend on was making it unsustainable. But the break-up of the structures of the Empire would lead inevitably to chaos and a time of great suffering for many people. Jesus warns those who follow him that if they witness for God’s justice in that world they will have to be prepared to face the consequences: they will have to “take up their cross” (Luke 9:23). A message like that is not likely to make the Church very popular. Many people come to the Church for help in carrying their own crosses, not to be told they must be prepared to carry other people’s crosses as well. But, as Paul says, the secret is that there is hope, not in trying to carry our own cross, but in being prepared to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2)- and that must be a global sharing, not merely in the confines of a local congregation.