When we talk about biblical history most people are familiar with the story of the Jews and the fact that the Temple was lost not just once but twice. These occurrences precipitated a host of occurrences which are traced throughout the bible and world history. One of the primary results, though, of these destructions was that it made the Chosen People, a race without a country, a people who belonged no-where, a Diaspora remnant of believers without a place to practice their faith. So, most people are used to thinking about the Diaspora strictly in terms of the Jewish people.
Why didn’t the Jews just build a new place? The Temple was sacred and had to be constructed by direct command of God for the people. The first temple was built by King Solomon; the second authorized by King Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Temple was not just a shack that you could throw together. It was the declared House of God, by God Himself and the only place where sacrifices could be performed. All community life took place in the Temple. So destruction of the Temple pretty well gutted the Jewish society and made them homeless wanderers. That’s why the building of the third temple in Jerusalem is regarded as such a monumental event. It is the direct coming of God Himself to a dwelling he specifies, a universe changing event. Basically, the Jews are in a perpetual state of “waiting” for the Temple to rise a third time. In an interesting side note it should be mentioned that the tradition of Church construction in the West is based on the idea of always having the sanctuary face east. For Christians this is also a particular kind of waiting because it is based on the concept that if we face the morning star at worship we too anticipate the coming of the sun (Son) as the perpetual light. It is also a nod to Jerusalem, the location of the first house of worship that God declared for himself.
What about us Christians? Aren’t we the “ones” who actually have God? He’s in our Churches, present in the Eucharist and we don’t have to wait for him at all. Mass is celebrated 24/7 and Jesus is present there all the time. Yet, we have Advent and Lent and are taught to be in a constant state of watching, waiting and anticipating. Isn’t this a contradiction? In a perfect world we believers would be so tuned with The Father God that there would be no interruption in our relationship with Him. His thinking would be our thinking and his actions our actions. All we have to do to check the validity of this is to look around us. In the world you know, is there uninterrupted peace and do people constantly treat each other with love, respect and fear of God? Not in my circles and as I look in the news I see that the thugs have even moved to killing police in uniform simply to “get” a thing like a motorcycle or stereo system that they covet. It seems we are so, so far away from God. Truth be told, then, all of us are waiting. We are all the ones separated from God, by sin, by choice, by accident, by grief, by guilt and by blame. All of us in the world, then, are the separated ones, the Diaspora. We are all desperately longing for the coming of the Lord in His full revelation and glory.
The Church gives us Advent to remind us of this reality of living in a non-converted world. With that we get hope, encouragement, camaraderie and the truth that in our desperate longing, we are never alone. We are far from scattered and hopeless; as a matter of fact we are actually in the middle of being gathered up and cared for by God Himself who hears our cries. “Fear not, for I am with you; from the east I will bring back your descendants, from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Hold not back! Bring back my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth: Everyone who is named is mine, whom I created for my glory whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43:5-7) “Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children. Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.” (Bar 5:5) Liturgical “marks” like Advent are meant to drive home the idea that we are never not remembered by God even if the world seems all too vicious and all too crazy. The truth is that we are the Diaspora and the Lord never stops seeking us. Do you know anyone who is not named? In Advent it is not so much that we are waiting but that we are being “gathered in” by God Himself. Live in courage and joy while you are waiting because it’s not so much that you are seeking God but that no matter where you are at, he is seeking to gather you. We eagerly claim the title of “scattered children”. There really is no place to hide, hallelujah!
Copyright 2010, Advent, Kathryn M. Cunningham
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