Thursday, Advent, Week Three

Today’s reading from Isaiah 54 is also used in the Liturgy of the Word at the Easter vigil. In the light of the Paschal candle this reading speaks to the promise of rescue from death and the hope of new life. In our Advent liturgy we can hear it as a text of eager longing for ‘the Holy One of Israel’.

Through all of the complexities of Israel’s covenant relationship with God the prophets make appeal to the faithfulness of God, in Hebrew, ‘hesed.’ It’s a word which encompasses steadfastness, loyalty, mercy and love. Israel must face the painful reality that she has wandered from the path of God’s ways. She has not shown herself faithful. In some vivid images Isaiah imagines a new reality for Israel. I am always struck by the image of a tent.

‘Widen the space of your tent,
stretch out your hangings freely,
lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm,
for you will burst out to right and to left.’

I love the idea of making space for something that God is promising. Every care is taken that the tent is robust and sturdy. There are no half-measures when God acts.

After the trauma of Exile Israel can dare to hope that God can do something new. Israel is no longer to feel abandoned but, cherished, protected and loved. So powerful is God’s promise that even if mountains were to disappear, God’s love will never leave the people of Israel.

‘for the mountains may depart,
the hill be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you’.

I chose this text for the entry procession for my Solemn Profession. It seemed to be to sum up my hope in my monastic journey. 22 years on and my hope still holds.

Can you put your hope in God this Advent?