Advent challenge to ‘step beyond’
‘Stepping Beyond’ is the theme of this year’s Sacred Space/Pray As You Go online Advent Retreat 2021, which is adapted from the writings of Paul Pace SJ and inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Fratelli tutti on fraternity and social friendship.
Fiona Owens, editor of Sacred Space explains that “Other words for ‘fraternity include fellowship; friendship and companionship, all words that are central to the Christian message especially at Christmas”.
She says that the weeks of Advent are a call to a deeper reflection on the life of Jesus as he stepped beyond his world into ours as our companion and friend. “Advent is a time to help us prepare to welcome Jesus our Saviour, God made man in Bethlehem and to hear his call to Step Beyond ourselves.”
Fiona is also aware that 2021 has was another challenging year still overshadowed by the global pandemic of Covid-19. “Thankfully, however, many of us are now moving to brighter days,” she says, acknowledging the impact of available vaccines, and adding that we are called now “to step out again into the fullness of life and step beyond our isolated worlds.”
The online retreat hosted on the online prayer website Sacred Space and the podcast site of Pray As You Go begins with a general introduction on Thursday 25 November. The first of the four weekly sessions begins on Monday 29 November and the retreat concludes on Monday 27 December.
The session titles are:
Session 1 Stepping Beyond – Reading Fratelli Tutti this Advent (25 November)
Session 2 Stepping Beyond – From neighbours to brothers and sisters (29 November)
Session 3 Stepping Beyond – Ourselves to those who suffer (6 December)
Session 4 Stepping Beyond – Our borders and welcoming the stranger (13 December)
Session 5 Stepping Beyond – A Journey of Peace Among Religions (20 December)
Session 6 Stepping Beyond – The crib into today’s messy world and Conclusion (27 December)
Paul Pace is a Jesuit from Malta who is currently director of the European tertianship in Dublin. The tertianship is the last phase of Jesuit formation. Paul’s blog aims to offer simple and brief spiritual reflections on a range of topics in the hope of offering some further insights and understanding.
Below, Fiona offers a prayer that you might consider saying over the Advent and Christmas season.
An Ecumenical Christian Prayer
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.
(Given in Assisi, at the tomb of Saint Francis, on 3 October, Vigil of the Feast of the Saint, in the year 2020).