Friday, 10 December 2010 12:13
Purple is the colour I and other clergy will be wearing in church most of the time between now and Christmas.
It is not that we have suddenly been bitten by the style-bug, or have watched too much of RTÉ's Off The Rails.' We belong to an older and more enduring fashion, the purple vestments of Lent and Advent.
The Advent season is upon us, a sure sign we are within four weeks of Christmas. It is a kind of mini-Lent, a time to reflect on how things are between God and ourselves, as well as between us and our neighbour as we approach the feast of the birth of our Saviour, who gave us those two love commandments.
There was a time in which I might have complained about the commercial side of Christmas starting too early, even though I have not noticed that this has happened in recent weeks.
Maybe it is that I have not been in a position to visit Galway or other shopping towns. I suppose I miss the easy access I had to Ballinrobe, Castlebar and Westport while in the middle of that particular shopping triangle during the time I was based in Tourmakeady for the past 15 Christmasses.
Here in Cárna we are well provided for as regards food, drink, fuel for the fire, petrol, etcetera, by local shops, and it may be just as well that we do not have the distractions of the big stores from which to buy all the things we don't need.
The depth of the recession has led me to welcome any commercialism attached to Christmas that is likely to put as much money as possible into pockets that need it.
While many people like to observe the Sabbath, whether that is on Friday, Saturday or Sunday according to a person's religion, I think the priority in recessionary times is for people to feed themselves and their families.
Jesus himself got into trouble with the authorities of his own religion for breaking the Sabbath in order to do good, to heal people in his case. The flexibility that comes from observing the spirit rather than the letter of the law was one of the astute lessons taught us by the man the baby Jesus was to become.I have heard of a priest who went into a bog to beat a man who was footing turf on a Sunday, 40 or so years ago.
Another made himself famous by doing the same in a hayfield. 'Unnecessary servile work on Sundays' was a phrase many of us learned from our catechisms as part of the commandment to 'keep holy the Sabbath Day'.
The zealot beating somebody in field or bog hardly added to the holiness of the Sabbath. It was the kind of over-enthusiasm for the letter of the law that Jesus condemned again and again in the Scribes and Pharisees.
Like the civil servant who acts as if the State money under his/her own control has to be doled out as sparingly as possible, the person with the same attitude to religious commandments also betrays the spirit of the law.
Jesus preached and practised a fairly relaxed form of religion, as I understand it from the Gospels. It was not as if he was without principle, as shown by his willingness to die for what, or because of what he believed in.
He did not make big issues of little things, make mountains from molehills. During Advent it might be worth our while to learn more of the non-fundamentalist Jesus who believed in the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Let our own little lullaby to baby Jesus as Christmas recognise all of that relaxed attitude to law and life.