I am pleasantly spooked, as you know, by the strange goings-on that often illumine my attempts to write on religion and culture. Over time, I thought I'd lost the intriguing connect we have with the Unseen but on November 27, it came right back stronger than ever to light my precarious inner life. I'd felt like going to church for ages, perhaps because of my beloved icon, the Polish 'Black Madonna', but the months just flew by. But suddenly I ran into a Christian woman whom I'd met about thrice at parties over the last year and who travels like mad on work. I happened to ask her if she went to church and if so, which one and she said she was going the very next evening for Sunday Mass, would I like to go? Of course I said yes and thought, brilliant, how nice it feels to have a simple wish granted.
The church had a lovely Thai-style exterior, a big gilded statue of Christ the Redeemer with upraised arms (like in Rio, I was told), a Kenyan padre preaching the sermon, hymns that were old friends and believers of every race in the congregation. My guide, knowing my liberal modern views, told me a bit anxiously as we entered, "Now please don't ask awkward questions about abortion and women priests in the Catholic Church." "Where's St Jude?" I whispered back, looking for a shrine to my favourite, the patron of lost causes.
She grinned and we began to look at the pamphlets in our pew that had the readings for Mass and announcements about forthcoming events.
That's when we sat up very straight with a startled squeak and hastily crossed ourselves (and I cried, so there). It was the First Sunday of Advent! What a blessed day of days to be called back to Church. Advent is the season of spiritual preparedness to welcome the anniversary of the avatar of Jesus. In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (this year Christmas itself is on a Sunday). In Eastern Orthodox churches, Advent starts earlier and lasts 40 days. As Indians we can have it all and my friend bought me Christmas candles before rushing off to Japan for a meeting. Like Charles Dickens said, "It is good to be children sometimes and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself".
Renuka Narayanan writes religion and culture.