Advent IV 2010

My master calls me

These words come not from the bible but from the penultimate speech in the tragedy of King Lear. The faithful Kent along with Edgar and the penitent Duke of Albany are the only living characters on the stage and the two young men are charged with saving the wreck of the country after the carnage, then come these words from Kent: “I have a journey, sir, shortly to go; My master calls me, I must not say no.”

This couplet is completely open ended, we are not told what Kent is going to do so the commentators have had a holiday. It is a mark of genius that there is unfinished business and that is probably why it has remained in my mind since “doing” Lear at School and subsequently pondering on how I would want to stage it. My preference would be for him to leave the stage slowly and purposefully.  “My master calls me, I must not say no.”

We are almost at the end of Advent with its wondrous repetition of the word “Come” but today, as we hear for the first time this year the story of the birth of the Saviour, it is good to be reminded that Advent is not only a time when we call out to the Lord “Come” - the Lord himself also cries out to us “Come”.  I am not suggesting that we should meet in the middle but rather that the momentum is not to be only in one way.  

Our Lady Mary, once she had recognised the angel, God coming to her, began a life of journeying, of other people saying “Come”, so she visits her cousin Elizabeth and now, with her pregnancy almost over and all preparations made, she and Joseph have to set out on the horrible journey to Bethlehem, many long miles on the bumpy back of a donkey. He whom she was to bear had to be proved as a descendant, somehow, of David and be born in the royal city. The master calls and she could not say No. So it was for the rest of her life until that final and most welcome of calls. Does it end there?  I wonder.

We have to take care that our often repeated “Come” doesn’t drown out the call to each one of us, the still small voice that so moved Elijah, a sort of whispered “Come” that he did so well to hear.  So too it is for all on their own pilgrimage, leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar. So I look forward to the establishment of daughter houses, or even a new foundation, so that as of old there will be the call to move away from the familiar, just like the apostles. If we are to believe but a little of their subsequent journeyings, they found themselves in places and situations that were certainly not of their own choosing. For others of us, indeed all ultimately, there will be the end but we don’t even know if that welcoming “Come” to that last exciting journey is in fact the end of our travelling.

The shepherds hear the call to come and leave their sheep; the wise men too discerned the call to “Come”. So it has always been, we call out “Come Lord Jesus” but when he comes it is to hear another call “You must come too”.

So Advent is not a time of one way traffic. Our call will most certainly be answered but it is unlikely to be in any way that we expect. Not for nothing did Gerry Hughes call his most famous book “The God of Surprises”, for the divine response to our cry for help “Come” is always another “Come”, onward and upward. There are no comfort stops on this journey of divine disclosure. No time to admire the view and, like little Jack Horner, look round and say “What a good boy am I!”

On this fourth Sunday of Advent we are called to look forward to what lies ahead. We are abundantly blessed, we have a retreat day tomorrow to contemplate the annual surprise of the birth of our Saviour. Llisten out for the echo as we say “Come Lord Jesus”.

At the very end of the Apocalypse we read “The Spirit and the bride say “Come” and let everybody who hears say “Come”….The one who testifies to these things says “Surely I am coming soon.”  He who gives this testimony says “Yes I am coming soon!  Amen, Come Lord Jesus”.


            Aidan Mayoss CR