Advent Sunday

Once again “the rousing time” is upon us, in the beginning of a new liturgical year. This phrase of the late Jesuit, Father Delp — butchered by the Nazis in early 1945 — has fixed in my mind among the explanations for Advent. (See here. And here, for that matter.) God is sowing now; one day He will harvest again. Now is a time to be shaken awake, to “smell the coffee” as we say. The faithful priest adduced three figures: 1. The man crying in the wilderness. 2. The herald angel. 3. Our Lady.

For some reason I attended the first Mass this morning — a Novus Ordo Low Mass — then went off rambling. For no reason, except that I was feeling empty, having nowhere in particular to go. Or perhaps it was nostalgia, for there came to mind moments from decades ago, when I was adolescent and travelling alone, hungry and cold, penniless and friendless, in the heart of another impersonal city. And all these many years later, I felt that coldness again, that desolation, that longing for the warmth of a home, somewhere; anywhere. (How many refugees have known this; and with it, illness.)

In the course of the later morning and afternoon I saw four altercations involving the insane. In the third of these events, the madman was confronting people on a subway platform, while shrieking obscenities, which he alternated with an extraordinary deep bearish growl. And curiously, he was commanding the very people he was assaulting to, “Leave me alone!” All around were instinctively braced against the sudden shove onto the tracks. (City folk get used to this.) Yet as the train rocketed into the station, the man went harmlessly limp. Then darted into a car, to threaten more passengers, as they tried in their Torontoist way to ignore him. He was among the most obvious candidates for exorcism I have seen, even on the TTC.

And then another “incident,” from another demonically inhabited man, at the other end of my ride. And another clump of fellow Torontonians, trying not to “engage.” All with smart phones to help them.

From that and several lesser things, my sense is reinforced, that the conurban world is breaking down around us. But it will take its course. It is the ever-inflating price we pay for “progress”; for the “freedom” that consists of opening all our ancestral cages, and letting our inner wild frolic about.

Too, I think that God remains Immanent, as well as Transcendent.

The finest thing I saw today — a memory to which I will cling — happened at Yonge and Bloor. This is the epicentre of Toronto’s “Uptown,” with skyscrapers ascended or ascending on all four of its corners, deleting scenes beloved from old days, and replacing them with the standardized, windswept glitz. Two men were crossing this intersection, one young, one old. The latter was blind, and with his blind stick, lifted as useless in the big city throb. The former, evidently his son — from the family resemblance between them — was guiding his dad by the other arm.

I was drawn short by the look on these faces. For there was in each a perfect trust. The old man’s face without anxiety; the young man’s, alert to danger, yet serene in a perfect affection. His face told the chance examiner that his father was the most precious thing in the world. His father’s said as much of his son. An anomaly, perhaps, in our broken city, but how unutterably normal.

An animal love, and an angelic love, combined in both body-and-soul “combos” — a two, within two, within two, within one, passing through the streets. A sign of the times, it seemed to me; of this rousing time, as the Nativity approaches.