I suppose that this is the lull before whatever comes next, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. In our lessons in church this is the period after the Epiphany and before Lent. In the diocese we have a bishop-elect whose translation to the diocese is expected to be in May and who will have the summer to get his feet under the desk.
In the affairs of the nation, we have severed one relationship with our European colleagues but there is no clear form for what comes next – and that also applies to our nation’s relations with the rest of the world, especially the English-speaking part of it. So yes, we wait and see…
But then much of the liturgical year is about watching and waiting. Advent is the time of preparation for Christmas, and Lent prepares us for Passiontide and Easter. Even after Easter there are the 40 days leading up to Ascensiontide and Pentecost. That is about 110 days out of 365. It makes me think of what came out of our Advent Course in which one of the messages was to watch and keep alert so as not to be taken by surprise by either persecution or indeed the coming again of our Lord.
Yet our bodies are also made up of many hidden parts. The organs that circulate our blood, process food and which give power to our minds and limbs are all hidden – but essential nevertheless. Perhaps it is also in the innermost parts of our lives that most of the work is being done. Our thinking and reflections, our prayers and meditations, our understanding and our perceiving are all hidden activities
That also applies to our thoughts and memories, the way we remember and forgive – the memories and the relationships that we treasure, the stumbling blocks that we face and the fears and resentments that we have to face down.
But that is not all, for there is still that visible and tangible fruit that our lives produce. Who we are is less important man what we become. The seed that sprouts and grows into a stem with leaves and, we hope, fruit. Jesus spoke of the seed that has to die before it car become fruitful (John 12: 24). He had quite a lot to say about sowing seed from the parable of the Sower (or the soil), the wheat and the tares, and so on. There is that sense in which it is the fallow times of our lives that are so important – even if they are also frustrating. God seems to be silent and mere is no other activity to absorb us or distract us. Plans seem to fall to nothing and hopes are deferred, delayed or dissipate altogether. But this is also the time to place into the hands of the Lord the very things that hold us back disappoint us, or just leave us cold and isolated.
One of the disconcerting features of our times is the blare of information and entertainment, both of which can be shallow and trivial. It is to be overwhelmed by images, sounds and impressions and in the midst of all this to be determined to maintain our spiritual and relational bearings and to remain sound in heart and mind.