Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

Advent 2021 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 8 December 2021

Advent can be an embarrassing time for those of us who like to live a quiet life as “compatible Christians”, rubbing along next to our pagan neighbours with just a handful of quaint beliefs to distinguish us. Advent rather sabotages the feeling that we are just like everyone else really (or perhaps that little bit nicer).

The trouble with Advent is the Second Coming. The Second Coming can’t be tamed and put in a box labelled “things we believe happened in the past”, because it belongs to the future. It can’t be put in a box labelled “things our ancestors used to believe” either, because the doctrine of the Second Coming is alive right now. Look at the Spiritual Reading page in Universalis and you will see the Second Coming stretching throughout our history. The 4th-century Jerusalem Catecheses make it part of the basic truths every beginning Christian ought to know; St Bernard in the 11th century makes the First and Second Comings a kind of frame for the “middle coming”, of Christ into the hearts of each of us; and in the modern, enlightened 20th century the Second Vatican Council remarks almost casually “The end of the ages is already with us”, as if it were a thing everybody knew already.

All this means that it is a good idea to remember that Advent is not just a ritual warm-up to the celebration of a 2000-year-old event but also a warm-up for a future event which is still on the way. Advent is not only about the past but about the future.

The Creed in Slow Motion

The Second Coming ought not to be a surprise or a puzzle for those of us who go to Mass. After all, we stand up every week and say out loud that Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. But it still is a puzzle for most of us, and that is because of a general problem about the Creed which affects every Christian doctrine and not just the Second Coming. It is this. Suppose I wanted to think for a moment about Jesus coming again and what that means – or even about something far more basic, such as the Son taking on flesh for me. However short a time I took over that, in that short time everybody else would be carrying on with their recitation. I would get left behind. Imagine if everyone in the church tried thinking about different parts of the Creed while saying it. It would be chaos.

In church we are too busy saying the Creed to think about what it says. And this is bad and dangerous because the Creed is the bones of our faith and without bones we are directionless slugs. Our own belief has no shape – and the people who look to us, to learn what it is they should be agreeing or disagreeing with, see nothing and learn nothing.

I have just finished a book called The Creed in Slow Motion which takes the reader through the opposite of synchronized public recitation. It focuses on the Creed phrase by phrase, sometimes even word by word. It is not about being told what to believe. It is for you to engage your mind and discover what you do believe, and have been believing all along — by turns deep, heartening, startling, revolutionary and even, by the world’s standards, outrageous.

The Creed in Slow Motion is due to be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7 April 2022, just in time for Easter. You can read more about it here.

Christmas presents

Meanwhile there is still this Christmas to be got through! If you feel like giving someone Universalis as a present, this blog post will tell you how. There are also big discounts if you decide to give multiple copies to (say) every member of a confirmation class.

The “New Every Day” e-book is a good kind of present as well. It is a treasury of spiritual readings for every day of the year, and includes the illustrated biographies and reflections from our About Today pages in the Universalis apps and programs. It is available for the Amazon Kindle and for Apple devices, and you can read more about it here.

“Journey into Light”

The Daily Books feature in the Universalis apps and programs has been a great success. This feature allows you to read a book in instalments, attaching it to any of the main Universalis pages such as About Today or Spiritual Reading. Most of the Daily Books are free, but one or two are sold as in-app purchases in the Universalis apps for Android and iPhone/iPad.

This month Journey into Light: The Challenge and Enchantment of Catholic Christianity, by Roderick Strange, has been added to the collection. This marks the first time that a commercial publisher has chosen to publish a new work in the Daily Book format in addition to the usual printed books and e-books. We appreciate this sign of confidence in Universalis and look forward to seeing how the adventure goes. The publisher says about this book:

Roderick Strange presents the core doctrines of the Catholic Church in all their mystery and enchantment. Following the Church’s liturgical year, he invites us to walk with Jesus of Nazareth from Advent, Christmas and Epiphany through to Lent, Easter and Pentecost. In a meditative and accessible style, he reflects upon what Christians believe and how they are called to live. Journey into Light is an introduction for those new to the Catholic faith and those wanting to reawaken their search for God.

Journey into Light costs £4.99 (or your equivalent) but you can read a free sample before you buy. You can read all about it here.

“Resurrection is Now”

Resurrection is Now, by Dom Aelred Watkin of Downside, was one of our very first Daily Books and it has been a stunning success. Many of you will have seen it because it was automatically included in the About Today page when it first came out last year.

We have had many requests for printed copies of Resurrection is Now. A new printed edition is planned as a result, but of more immediate interest is the fact that the Downside Abbey Bookshop have found a small number of copies of the first edition, and these are now on sale. This page has all the details. I am proud that you, the readers of Universalis, should have brought this hidden classic back to life.


Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at universalis@universalis.com or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps.

Let us all keep one another in our prayers, as always.

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