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Advent & the Bicycle by Fr. George W. Rutler

Advent & the Bicycle

by Fr. George W. Rutler

Priest Bicycle 

Like all feasts and fasts of the year, the days of Advent appear year after year and will do so until the end of time. Obviously then, this is a cyclical fact, but these days are not cyclical in the ancient philosophical sense of meaningless repetition, or the ambiguous kind of time loop fantasized in the 1993 film Groundhog Day. The days of Advent are more like the wheels on a vehicle that go round and round in order to reach a goal. That is the reason we speak of “the end of time.” Advent is about the ending of all created things, beginning with light itself, of which time itself is the measure.

It is obvious that darkness is the absence of light, as death is the absence of life, but human attempts to explain these contrasts get complicated because of our limited intelligence. Complications indicate that we have yet to understand the whole economy of the universe. What is called the Universal Theory of the Universe, or the Theory of Everything, or a variant of String Theory, is the Holy Grail of physics: the explanation of how all matter is coordinated and behaves. The physicist John Wheeler, of Johns Hopkins and Princeton, said some years ago that he did not know if such a formula could be found but he expected that, if it were discovered, the most surprising thing about it would be its simplicity.

Such a theory, though, would explain only the “what” and “how” of things, but not the why. God alone can explain why matter matters and why the end of time as a physical proposition is also the end of time as a moral fact. Each year Advent wheels us closer to a perception of this moral reality by its four mysteries of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Our instinct of that inclines us to speak of what is heavenly and what is hellish.

In celebrating the enfleshment of the Word that uttered all things into being, the Church rejoices that this Word, Christ, wants heaven for us. It was Christ, and no imaginative philosopher, who told us that Hell is real, as eternal separation from him, but is the destiny only of those who misuse their free will to “love darkness rather than light” (cf. John 3:19). In this darkest time of the year, the Light of Christ shines brightest, and so we can pray with confidence that there be cast into Hell “Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”


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