Advent Retreat – Longing and the Present Moment

3. LONGING AND THE PRESENT MOMENT

We have seen that longing is a very human characteristic with both positive and negative aspects. As a spur to work for the future and to give a sense of purpose in life it is good, even essential but it can be a negative when it focuses on longing for an irretrievable past or a completely unrealistic future.

However even the best of longing has its dangers. They come when longing keeps us constantly distracted from the present moment. If we are always longing to see what is the over the next hill or round the next corner then we fail to pay attention to where we are here and now. The present is like a wafer thin crack between two paving stones, almost squeezed out of existence.

So now it is time to step back from longing to counterbalance it with a greater appreciation of what we have now. After all, the present moment is the only reality we actually have. The past is beyond recall, the future is not yet formed. There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years, through such practices as mindfulness, on the importance of being in the present moment.

For Christians it is the place of encounter with God.

So take some time to become aware of your present circumstances. You can do this in many ways. Go out into the garden or for a short walk even if the weather is not brilliant. Really look at what is around you; look at colours and textures. Listen to what is going on around you. It may be something obviously pleasant like birdsong but even if it is the sound of traffic or work going on, still connect to it. It is part of your world in the here and now.

You can use a similar approach to what you eat and drink. Really taste what you are eating or drinking, savour it and be thankful for it.

Count your blessings. Make a list of all the things that are good in your life.

Take time over this as, beyond the obvious items, there may be hidden blessings of which you are hardly aware.

Get in touch with family or friends. Share what you are doing and listen to what the other person’s day is like. That will help ground you in the present

moment.

Do some task that absorbs your immediate energy and keeps you focused.

Clean a cupboard, make soup (and yes, you are worth making soup for even if you are on your own), do a jigsaw, some sewing or a bit of DIY. Above all do something for others; something you can do today even if it’s only a bit of shopping left on a doorstep, a card or a phone call. In the parable of the sheep and goats it is by our actions or lack of them that we shall be judged.

Reading

Matthew 25. 31-46

Prayer of St Richard of Chichester

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank yourself
for all the benefits that you have won for us,
for all the pains and insults that you have borne for us.
Most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day. Amen

Music

Handel’s Messiah

Air: ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted’

Chorus: And the glory of the Lord