Waiting is part of life. And sometimes the expectation of what is to come, which accompanies our waiting, can be as good as that for which we long. Think of the joy and excitement that accompanies the waiting for a wedding, the expecting of a child, the planning of a holiday. We talk about it, dream about it and in a way we live it as if it were here already.
We have been doing a lot of that kind of waiting in the course of this year. As we counted the days in lockdown we dreamt of what it would be like to pick up our lives again and live.
The gathering of a parish community for Sunday Mass is a communal activity of dreaming and longing for a future. Feeding ourselves on the Word of God and the Body of Christ is an act of nourishing body and mind and soul. There is something particularly symbolic about the opening of our Churches coinciding with the beginning of Advent, the season of waiting and expecting, the season of the already but not yet, the season par excellence of what is to come. For Christians we wait together and accompany each other along the way.
For many parishioners this Sunday is the opportunity to return to their parish church and reconnect with their place of worship, friendships and spiritual routines. For others things have changed. For some, illness, short term or long term, now dominates their lives and they are unable to return to parish life in the same way. For others the lifting of restrictions does not mean that fear or vulnerability have been lifted from their lives. These people belong to our parish in a new way too. For others the year has meant change in the place they call home or the people they call family. They too belong to our parish in a renewed way. All return with stories, and experiences, and renewed longings.
And so Advent holds before us a new coming of age of our parish. As we welcome a new year of the church’s life, we will need to think about how we remember and include all of our parishioners on the journey of re-opening.
From a liturgical perspective we will continue to provide online Mass for those who cannot come to our churches. We will soon be able to extend home visitation to Aged Care and private homes where we will embrace our parishioners in those settings and bring communion, prayer and friendship. We have begun planning for those who were to receive sacraments in 2020 and now will be welcomed in Baptism, Communion and Confirmation in 2021.
We are also planning opportunities for all our parishioners to participate in Christmas Liturgies. We will provide an online Christmas Mass and Carols. We will ensure that as many Masses are celebrated, across our churches, as is possible to ensure places for all. We will need to ask all our parishioners and friends to ensure that they look ahead and book in advance so that we can find a place for everyone.
We have been doing a lot of waiting this year. This Advent might be the time for us to check in and see how we need to wait and walk with each other into the new future we will create together.