We recently had our almost annual Advent Spiral at Trinity. It was well attended again this year and different people brought different things to it and took different things away from it. The Advent Spiral is a simple event but, as it suggests below, one that can be accessed at different levels. I am most grateful to John Page- Davies for his permission to post his thoughts on the spiral.
The Advent Spiral
Walking the Advent Spiral at Trinity is a moving experience at various levels. This year (2011) it moved me to a reflection about the nature of my stumbling pilgrimage towards – at least, I hope it’s ‘towards’ – God.
In the Advent walk I move in a sort of spiral, round and round, yet inexorably drawn towards the centre, surrounded by simple symbols of the natural world, passing as I do so the lights lit by other people, and eventually reaching the ‘Christ’ candle. I light my own small light from that and then retrace my steps, placing my own light where I choose along the pathway amongst those of others. Then I return to my place.
My relationship with God is one of being slowly drawn in, and then spiralling outwards again. My way is illuminated by the lights of other people’s lives, which generally insist on the direction of my journey, in spite of my sometime reluctance and lack of conviction. At the centre I find – what do I find? God is a surprisingly modest light. The ‘light of the world’ is a candle, and I recall that that very image comes to us from an era and a place in which rush lights and tiny oil lamps were pretty much the sole sources of light in human lives after sunset. I reflect that for me, and perhaps for many, God does not blaze upon me like the sun, but is in my vision a small, uncertain, guttering light. But it is a living flame, from which it is possible, as it is not with an electric bulb, to ignite the wick of my own tiny candle with which to show a light in my turn as I backtrack round the spiral, away from that feeble God-experience back to common matters and the affairs of those around me.
I am comforted by the thought that enough of the divine can be experienced in small, small things, be that a candle flame or the ‘still, small voice’ after the storm. I do not need to see the sun for the time being; it is enough to have the means of walking safely in the dark and finding human contact as I do so. It would be nice to experience a high summer day in the light and the warmth of the high-riding sun, but I’ll settle for the time being for a smoking candle flame, for that bears the warmth of life, and it is, indeed, fuelled by the long-ago sunshine that fed the forests now become oilfields and the recent sunshine that raised the flowers that in turn nourished the bees.
I come away from the church with a faint awareness that I have met something of God, and am warmed by the thought.